UWM to develop Lubar Center for Entrepreneurship with $10M gift

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will create the Lubar Center for Entrepreneurship with a $10 million gift from Sheldon and Marianne Lubar, university chancellor Mark Mone announced on Thursday.

The center will act as a hub for UWM’s entrepreneurial programs, classes and initiatives for undergraduate and graduate students and will also cater to startup companies in southeastern Wisconsin.

The new center will be housed in a brand new building, to be constructed at the corner of E. Kenwood Boulevard and Maryland Avenue. The new facility will also have room for a new welcome center, where prospective students and UWM visitors will get their first impression of UWM’s campus.

About “20,000 footprints” come through on visits to UWM’s campus every year, according to Mone.

“They will get an eyeful of the entrepreneurial activities happening right there,” he said during a press conference on UWM’s campus Thursday morning.

The Lubar Center will serve entrepreneurs in all 14 of UWM’s schools and colleges and will allow for interdisciplinary and social entrepreneurship programs. The center will advance already existing entrepreneurial initiatives in the Lubar School of Business, the College of Engineering & Applied Science, and the School of Freshwater Sciences, among others, according to university officials.

Current entrepreneurial ventures on campus are rolling out in fragmented ways, Mone said.

The critical mass that can be achieved by having students work together will be “pivotal” and transformational for the school, he said, as the Lubar Center creates a sort of “nucleus” for entrepreneurs at every stage.

“This is a real win for students, faculty, staff and the community because this center embraces all, providing opportunities for participation,” Mone said in a statement. “For some, the goal will be bringing to market products and services. For others, it will be transforming lives in our region with social entrepreneurship.”

UWM is touting the new center as a community asset with resources available to entrepreneurs from all backgrounds. Mone believes it is the kind of asset needed to boost Milwaukee and Wisconsin’s statures in the broader startup community.

“As we add and work with other partners, we anticipate that this will have the galvanizing effect,” he said. “This will be truly one of the more promising activities and centers in the region.”

UWM plans to use the Lubars’ donation for both the development and operation of the center. Their $10 million will function as an endowment. UWM projects the building will cost $8 million, and the remaining $2 million will support operations. The university aims to invest a total of $25 million into the school by raising additional funds.

At the helm of the Lubar Center will be a director who will coordinate and manage center programming with UWM faculty members who already focus on entrepreneurship. Some of the courses offered within the Lubar Center will feature “ideas challenges” and will work to align entrepreneurship activities with classroom curriculum. Classes will be “interactive, team-oriented and project-based,” according to UWM.

The university will also welcome speakers to the center and will structure educational programming that enhances entrepreneurial learning and skill building.

UWM anticipates that the building will be operational by late 2017 or early 2018, Mone said, but will ramp up the center’s entrepreneurial programs before construction starts.

The Lubars’ recent $10 million gift follows another $10 million donation they made to the university in 2006 to endow professorships and student scholarships in the business school, known as the Lubar School of Business.

Sheldon argues that UWM is the “most important institution in the city” and acknowledges that some would make the case that “it’s the most important institution in the state.”

As an entrepreneur, himself, he is a top advocate for the next generation of entrepreneurs who can fuel job creation.

“If you can make someone an entrepreneur who will create jobs (and) who will give people the earning power to live a decent life, you’re going to create a more ideal community,” he said.

In addition to establishing Lubar & Co., Sheldon devoted his career to public service as assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration, and president of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents. He also co-founded and presided over the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.

UWM plans to release more details of the new Lubar Center in the coming months.

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