Marquette President offers new President’s challenge to improve Milwaukee’s central-city neighborhoods

March 15, 2018

Staff Photo

Marquette University President Mike Lovell, in partnership with the Johnson Controls Foundation, unveiled a new $250,000 initiative to break the cycle of poverty, crime and joblessness in a Milwaukee neighborhood by addressing one or more of the critical areas in which neighborhood inequities exist, including health, education, safety, housing, transportation and economic prosperity. The initiative was unveiled during two community information sessions on March 6, 2018.

The new initiative, to be called Marquette University President’s Challenge, comes with an unusual requirement: the program seeks to pair activists from some of “Milwaukee’s most challenging neighborhoods” to submit their own ideas, working in partnership with Marquette faculty members as well as not-for-profit and social agencies to prepare grant proposals. The winning grant proposal will receive $125,000 in grant money for two years.

“We have kept it deliberately broad in scope,” said Dr. Daniel J. Bergen, executive director of the Office of Community Engagement at Marquette who introduced the program and took questions during the first presentation at Neighborhood House Milwaukee on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. “We felt the more restrictive we made it, the harder it would be for people to access. We want to create sustainable solutions that can change lives.”

In order to submit a proposal for consideration, applicants must be represented by, at minimum, a five-person team. Each team must be comprised of: at least one faculty member from each of the following areas: STEM-related; Social Sciences; and Humanities, plus a substantial partnership with a community organization (including non-profit, public entity, or business). Neighborhood applicants interested in partnering with a team, can fill out a form on the Marquette University website ( by April 6, 2018 to be assigned to a team.

In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Lovell said his idea was to encourage as many new solutions and teams as possible. Even those teams that do not receive the funding will benefit in learning how to research, prepare and write grant proposals which can be submitted to other foundations and philanthropic institutions, Bergen said in response to an audience member question.