Recently I’ve had opportunities to update groups on progress we’re making at Marquette. Increasingly audiences are attracted to one particular topic — and which one might surprise you.
The Rev. Robert A. Wild, S.J., Commons, our first new student housing development in more than 50 years, is changing our skyline, but it’s not the top attention getter. Neither is implementation of Beyond Boundaries, our strategic plan document. People are most interested when I share what we’re doing to build our community.
Most often this means talking about the Near West Side Partners Inc., our continuing partnership with Harley-Davidson Motor Co., MillerCoors, Aurora Health Care, Potawatomi Business Development Corp. and dozens of area for-profit and nonprofit organizations. We’ll celebrate the partnership’s third birthday in January 2018.
What captures people’s attention are stories about how the partners worked together to achieve visible results. They appreciate how we collaborated to shut down both a tobacco store that police were called to 150 times in a single year and a multi-unit rental property that had multiple code violations and was a center of area crime. The shutdowns happened only after the partners lobbied state and city governments to lend very appropriate assistance.
Since transforming from a campus safety department, our Marquette University Police Department has reported significant decreases in robberies (down 28 percent in 2016 compared to 2015) and burglaries (down 53 percent in 2016 compared to 2015), as has the Milwaukee Police Department for its Near West Side patrol areas. MUPD is further connecting with our community, thanks in part to one of their newest officers, a very nice dog named Nattie.
What’s gratifying is the recognition Marquette and the Near West Side Partners have received. The Washington Center recognized us with a Higher Education Civic Engagement Award; the Wisconsin Leadership Institute named us the Collaborative Leader of the Year; and the International Town and Gown Association gave us the Presidential Excellence Award.
In the end, though, a comment from one alumnus summarized well our efforts. Referencing our university’s mission and commitment to service, he said: “Isn’t this what we’re supposed to be doing?” I couldn’t agree more.