Why UWM’s mounting challenges matter for businesses in southeastern Wisconsin | Ep. 89

In the most recent issue of BizTimes Milwaukee, BizTimes associate editor Lauren Anderson explored the mounting financial challenges facing the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and why the university matters to the business community in southeastern Wisconsin.

Anderson joined fellow BizTimes associate editor Arthur Thomas on the BizTimes MKE Podcast to discuss her reporting.

“The number of UWM grads who are part of the workforce and driving the economy in a lot of ways is pretty significant,” Anderson said.

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She also described how UWM came to have two main missions, one serving as an institution focused on increasing access to higher education and another emphasizing world-class research.

“Those two missions go back to the found of UWM in its current form … it emerged out of a debate between politicians about the need for an urban university in the state’s economic center. People argued ‘if we’re going to be a great city, we need a great university,'” Anderson said.

Her story highlights how as the region’s manufacturing sector declined in recent decades, leaders had a chance to reconsider if one mission or the other should be emphasized and decided on both.

“Which leaves them with two pretty financially intensive missions to pull off, both of those things aren’t cheap to accomplish, so it’s kind of a tall order for UWM to deliver on,” Anderson said.

It is often hard not to compare UWM to UW-Madison. The state’s flagship university has set a high bar for economic and research impact, but Anderson said she heard a mixed message from those she talked to about whether it is a fair comparison or the right aspiration for UWM.

“You drive through Madison and you see the mark of UW-Madison everywhere you go and I don’t know if the same argument could be made for UWM, though I will say, I think there’s a lot of things that people might not recognize as collaborations that UWM is a part of with the region’s biggest corporations,” she said.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.