The Center for Urban Initiatives and Research, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee office that works closely with nonprofit groups in the city to help them do their jobs better, will close June 30, its acting director says.
Terry Batson says she learned last summer that the center would close, but hoped to save some of its programs and held off on making the announcement. She disclosed the closing in an email to the Center’s community partners Monday.
UWM is going through a major budget-slashing, forced by declining enrollment and steep reductions in state funding. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Monday that Chancellor Mark Mone projected more than $41 million in budget cuts over the next three years. Batson said she was told that the center’s demise is budget related.
The Center had 14 staff employees and 25 student employees when it learned of the closure last summer, Batson told BizTimes, but she said Thursday that the office is down to just eight people now.
The office helps community nonprofit groups with such things as data analysis, surveys and the evaluations they need to apply for foundation money.
She said the center, launched more than 40 years ago as the Urban Research Center, an academic research group, changed its mission and its name under former Chancellor Nancy Zimpher’s Milwaukee Idea of the late 1990s and early 2000s, which tasked the university to increase its connections to the larger Milwaukee community. The center played a key role in pushing forward the university’s service- ethos, she said.
“We incubated other centers here, we incubated the School of Public Health here,” she said, adding that her predecessor as director of the center, Steve Percy, became the first interim dean of the public health school.
The Milwaukee Idea, she said, “was about really getting out in the community, that the university would be very present in the community. We were sort of like the flagship for that Milwaukee Idea.”
“I can understand they need to base decisions on the mission of the university, and that is research and access,” she said. “Because we have a community service mission, I would almost say it (the center) could be a luxury they don’t have anymore.”
Reggie Moore, CEO of the Center for Youth Engagement, which does training and strategic planning for youth agencies around the city, said his group has partnered with CUIR in helping evaluate some of the programs he works with.
“Of the contributions UWM has made in the community,” he said, “this is one of the greatest. I think it’s a significant loss to the community and a loss to the university as a whole. It’s disappointing that they were not able to secure the support they needed to continue.”
Michelle Johnson, UWM director of media services, issued a statement about the closing Friday on behalf of the university:
“The Center for Urban Initiatives and Research has done tremendous work for many years. Unfortunately, the university is facing significant budget cuts, and this is no longer an area that it can support. UWM remains committed to community engagement, along with research and student success, and will continue to be active in all three areas with the resources available.”