UWM needs new chancellor like Lovell

MichaelLovellThe premature departure of Mike Lovell as chancellor of UW-Milwaukee to president of Marquette University will only be a positive for the Milwaukee region if the UW regents appoint a successor who shares his vision and that of two chancellors before him, that of UWM as a major player in the innovation economy.

No longer can public universities confine their role to student education and the production of graduates. Call it the supply side of the economic development equation.

The universities must also play a leading role on the demand side – that of creating jobs so that graduates stay here and contribute to the prosperity of the citizens of the state, the same citizens who fund the university system with their tax dollars and their tuition payments.

UWM, under the leadership of Lovell and Carolos Santiago and Nancy Zimpher before him, has been making that transition from a sleepy teaching school to a major institution from which innovators spring.

Lovell was midstream on a number of initiatives that will move the needle dramatically toward greater prosperity for the M7 region:

• UWM’s R&D total has grown to more than $60 million, a critical piece of the puzzle for break-through innovations. Even though federal R&D budgets are shrinking, UWM can win a bigger share of the R&D pie.

• UWM’s generation of disclosures and patents has seen a sharp increase as young faculty members jump into the intellectual property arena.

• Deeper partnerships between UWM and industry that puts university and business researchers side-by-side, exemplified by Johnson Controls, GE Healthcare, Rockwell and WE Energies. Lovell has a gift for developing those relationships.

• Complete alignment between UWM’s strategies and those of the M7 economic development organizations. The new School of Freshwater Sciences, the new Innovation Campus and Lovell’s energy consortium, the new School of Public Health all play pivotal roles in the M7 strategies. The university system’s flagship, UW-Madison, has offered little help for solving Milwaukee’s issues, so it’s up to the campuses in the region to step up.

• The concept of a university dedicated to spawning entrepreneurs is taking root across UWM campus, beyond the engineering and business departments into the liberal arts schools. That energy on campus matches the growing resolve and resources in the region for reinventing a lagging economy through high-growth startups.

Lovell will be able to take his vision of how a university can lead a region to Marquette. He did it before UWM when he was at the University of Pittsburgh, where a reinvention of a rust belt region is also underway. Marquette has been stepping up on R&D, now $15.5 million, and startups, but it can do a lot more. Lovell will add leadership stability and vision on the demand side of the prosperity equation – job creation – to Marquette. That will be a plus.

Marquette is already involved in the Lovell-led initiative, the Midwest Energy Research Consortium. More collaborations with UWM and other regional universities, even UW-Madison, could be in store. As an example, Marquette’s law school has established a course in fresh water law to complement the regions fresh water technology strategy.

A collective strategic focus, orchestrated by the M7 leaders like Lovell, holds great promise.
Concurrently, the region’s other academic institutions are improving their games on developing science and technology and spinning out job creating ventures. The Medical College of Wisconsin, MSOE, UW-Whitewater and the BloodCenter of Wisconsin have all pushed forward to one degree or another on R&D and startups. It’s a new, concerted mindset.

Nonetheless, the leadership hole left at UWM by Lovell’s move across town needs to be filled with a replacement who understands the larger role that universities have to play in a world where technological breakthroughs are the road to improved economic performance, to prosperity for our citizens.

Lovell had a number of reasons for leaving the UWM with strategic work unfinished, some surely related to less financial and political support from governors and the legislature. The latest proposed hit is another two-year freeze on tuitions because of a high level of reserves in the UW System as a whole. Yet UWM’s reserves are in line and fiscally necessary. How is UWM, then, going to offset inflationary impacts on its costs?

Lovell’s decision should spark a major analysis and reorganization of how the UW System relates to the state’s economy, how it handles its finances and how it deals with disrespect from the politicians.

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  • Erasmus B. Dragon

    You keep hitting the Madison campus but your complaints reflect basic ignorance. Where do you think GE Healthcare would be without the imaging research done in Madison? Are you aware that the products made by GE in Milwaukee wouldn’t be possible without the Madison research? This is but one example of the benefit which the Madison campus continues to provide to Milwaukee.

    That’s terrific that UWM is now up to $60 million in R&D and Marquette is up to $15.5 million. When the two of them combined hit a billion dollars (like Madison) let us all know, would you?

    • JohnTorinus

      Agreed that the imaging research done at UW – Madison helps GE immensely. GE is also helped by its collaboration with UWM and the Medical College of Wisconsin.

      Your example is what we need much more of. Collaboration is the way of the future.

      Total R&D in M7 region is now about $300 million. Not bad.

      But you miss the point. M7 is not in competition with Madison. The region’s businesses have many competitors, but, for the most part, they are not in Dane County.

      Yes, I think UW – Madison could do a lot more for the state.

      • Erasmus B. Dragon

        John, you wear your ignorance like a crown. Where would Wisconsin’s cranberry industry be without the Madison campus?

        From a 2004 WARF press release:

        A cranberry variety developed by UW–Madison scientists with the help of local cranberry growers is now poised to give those same growers a competitive edge.

        The berries of HyRed, a cranberry bred and tested for more than 10 years by UW–Madison plant breeders Eric Zeldin and Brent McCown, turn deeply red a full two weeks sooner than those of a leading cranberry cultivar called Stevens. HyRed’s early and intense fruit color promises to help Midwest growers better compete with East Coast and West Coast cranberry operations that benefit from longer growing seasons.

        “Because the Midwest has a shorter growing season and growers have to get the cranberries out before freezing, they’ve many times had to go in and harvest the crop before it developed full color,” says McCown, UW–Madison’s Gottschalk Distinguished Professor of Cranberry Research. “Growers can command a premium price for darker berries, so color is one of the issues of competitiveness for the Midwest.”

        Cranberries are particularly big business in Wisconsin: The state currently produces 50 percent of North America’s crop, making Wisconsin the largest cranberry producer in the world.

        • JohnTorinus

          And, sir, you throw around insults like a champ. Who the hell are you any way? Never did I say that UW — Madison makes no contributions statewide.

          • Erasmus B. Dragon

            Sorry, John, but when there is senseless bashing of our alma mater, her loyal graduates will respond.

            Did you catch Tom Still’s column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel today? More evidence of the continuing major contributions of the great state university to the entire state. Animal agriculture in Wisconsin was born on the Madison campus in the late 1800’s. The university continues to be the strongest partner that the state’s agriculture has. On, Wisconsin!

            Link: http://www.jsonline.com/business/wisconsin-center-for-dairy-research-project-aims-to-foster-innovation-b99246612z1-255869861.html

          • JohnTorinus

            That’s exactly the kind of interaction I’m looking for in other sectors of the economy. Not enough output for the many inputs. But I take your points.
            Note: I did my journalism courses at Madison (for better or worse for the state) and my son graduated from your alma mater.

          • Erasmus B. Dragon

            The state kicks in 12 cents on the dollar for the operation of the Madison campus. When you took your classes, that figure was closer to 50 cents on the dollar. Today the state is a minority shareholder in the great state university. We should all thank our lucky stars that we have a major research university located in the state and we should do all we reasonably can to help it thrive and prosper.

  • Erasmus B. Dragon

    Are you aware that modern organ transplantation would not be possible without development of an organ “washing” and storage solution developed in Madison? Use of the “UW Solution” roughly quadrupled the amount of time that an organ would remain viable after removal from the donor and transplantation into the recipient. This was a meteoric advance in medicine. Not only did it mean that organs could be transported over greater distances but it meant markedly better survival rates.

    From the June, 1992, issue of Annals of Surgery:

    The development of the University of Wisconsin (UW) cold storage solution has extended safe preservation of the liver and pancreas from 6 to 24 hours or more… The ability to extend preservation times with UW solution has many advantages; however, the most important contribution of UW solution to clinical transplantation has been the increased utilization of scarce donor organs for more recipients because the previously imposed constraints on preservation time have been removed.

    • Erasmus B. Dragon

      What relevance does enhanced organ transplantation have to the other 71 counties in Wisconsin, you ask? It means that donated organs can be obtained anywhere in the state and transported to an organ transplant center for use in a timely manner.

      Come over to Madison some morning and stand in the lobby of UW Hospital & Clinics. You will see the sickest people entering, coming from every corner in the state. It is where hope is given to the hopeless. That’s the way it has been for nearly 100 years.

  • colin scanes

    John is right about the importance of R&D and education to the State’s economy. It is not a zero sum game. Madison is moving forward because of UW and the entrepreneurial spirit. The challenge is for Milwaukee to move forward. It and UWM have the potential. The question is whether there will be the investment, the entrepreneurialism and the willingness to try some things that are new (rather than the blame game).

    • JohnTorinus


  • Erasmus B. Dragon
  • Erasmus B. Dragon