As I start my second academic year at Marquette, I’m excited about launching the first group of projects supported through the university’s Strategic Innovation Fund. Similar to a venture capital fund, the fund was announced at my September 2014 inauguration and provides resources for promising innovative and entrepreneurial ideas that might transform our campus, Milwaukee and beyond. I am very proud that all submitted proposals truly embraced the mission of our university and feel blessed that the fund is being guided by Dr. Jeanne Hossenlopp, vice president for research and innovation, and a dedicated Innovation Council of more than 20 faculty, staff and students. (Read more about the fund online at marquette.edu/innovation.)
This fall 38 projects will be launched with startup funds. I’m pleased that seven of the projects have a specific focus on water and the environment. Given Pope Francis’ recent encyclical on the environment and Milwaukee’s efforts to become a global water hub, these projects couldn’t be more relevant or timely. This is especially true as Marquette becomes a major tenant in the Global Water Center — a seven-story building fewer than two miles from campus that is becoming the epicenter of Milwaukee’s water technology activities.
The community collaboration and outreach projects that were funded further demonstrate that helping others is part of Marquette’s DNA. One of the community-based projects will focus on enabling 21st century literacy acquisition and instruction in Marquette’s Hartman Literacy and Learning Center. The center focuses on improving reading skills of elementary school students while providing College of Education undergraduate students with hands-on opportunities to strengthen their core teaching abilities. The center is unique because it is the only one of its kind in the United States that buses second- and third-graders (from Milwaukee Public Schools) to a college campus for tutoring. With additional support from the Strategic Innovation Fund, the center will obtain state-of-the-art technology and software that will accelerate elementary students’ reading skills and allow Marquette’s future teachers to practice leading-edge teaching methods.
Another community-focused project, Promoting Assets and Reducing Crime, will make an immediate impact on Marquette’s neighborhood. This project will foster additional redevelopment and growth within the near-west side of Milwaukee, incorporate new community-based crime reduction techniques and create a strong neighborhood identity based on our numerous existing assets. In addition, the project will strengthen and enhance our expanding neighborhood partnership with Aurora Health Care, Harley-Davidson, MillerCoors and Potawatomi Business Development Corp.
Several projects that were funded will significantly enhance existing efforts on campus to expand our research and entrepreneurial activities, including:
• Creation of a Human Performance Assessment Core. Led by associate professor Dr. Paula Papanek, this project will strengthen and substantially expand our human performance research abilities. In addition, it will set the stage for new programs that could be incorporated into the Athletic Performance and Research Center that we intend to build on the newly acquired land on the southeast corner of campus.
• Establishing CoLab, a business and technology incubator that will support entrepreneurial students who want to start businesses. Led by engineering sophomore Creighton Joyce and Sam Wesley, a sophomore in the College of Business Administration, the project will significantly expand the capabilities of the university’s Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship.
• Further development of The Commons, a collaborative entrepreneurship program available to 163,000 students attending the 21 higher education institutions in southeastern Wisconsin. Led by Charles Ries, senior director of development design and innovation in University Advancement, the project will introduce Marquette students to entrepreneurs at other campuses and provide support for them to launch a company or create innovation solutions to technical challenges posed by regional companies.
This is just a snapshot of the great ideas being developed by our faculty, staff and students. What’s really exciting about the Strategic Innovation Fund is we’re just getting started. We’re in the process of investing nearly $5 million during 2014–15 and plan to commit at least an additional $3 million for 2015–16. Getting another set of transformational proposals from campus is just one more reason I look forward to an outstanding year at our university. If you have ideas that could add to our momentum, I’d love to hear them. Send them to me at email@example.com.
Dr. Michael R. Lovell