By Mark Mone
Chancellor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
It’s important to have partners in life, whether personal, at work, in sports or the arts.
A significant partnership involving the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee that’s dedicated to improving our community’s future through education is earning national recognition and showing promising results.
These hopeful signs, along with the start of a new school year, provide an opportunity for UWM, Milwaukee Area Technical College and Milwaukee Public Schools to reinforce our commitment to M3 (pronounced M-cubed). Together, we serve more than 130,000 students, and we are working together to forge a true public education network.
Thanks to our collective efforts, M3 is building on a solid foundation.
Graduation rates are rising at MPS. The four-year high school completion rate was 66.7 percent for 2017-18, the last certified figure, up from 59.7 percent in 2015-16. The target for 2020 is 72 percent.
The Parent Institute is expanding. The M3 program was originally for parents of ninth- and 10th-grade students, but this year, it’s grown to include parents with children in MPS middle schools. The program supports parents as advocates for children’s academic success and provides information about post-secondary options and entrance requirements.
More MPS students are applying for financial aid. MPS seniors are completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid at a higher rate – 70.1 percent of students as of July 31. That puts MPS students on track to meet or exceed the 2018 year-end total of 74.6 percent through Sept. 30, 2018.
Early College program participation has doubled. In May 2019, 32 students completed the first class of the M3 Early College program. Now, more than 60 students are taking 19 college credits over the course of the 2019-20 academic year. Early College gives MPS students a taste of college life by taking classes at MATC and UWM.
Our efforts are starting to earn nationwide recognition, too. In June, a group from Aiken County, South Carolina, traveled to Milwaukee to learn more about M3 by speaking with leaders and representatives from UWM, MATC and MPS.
Also, we were honored with an award at the University Economic Development Association national conference in Reno, Nevada, in October. Representatives from each of the M3 partners delivered the winning presentation in the “Talent + Place” category that included two other finalists. The category recognized projects that showed how putting the right people in the right environment benefits the community and economy.
Such recognition provides validation for the hard work of caring people from UWM, MATC and MPS. Still, there is so much more to accomplish.
We share a better understanding of how to work together. Leaders and stakeholders from all three institutions gathered over the summer to exchange new ideas. As a result, we’re in the process of considering new goals that would measure progress well beyond 2020 and include postsecondary achievement.
The reward is witnessing scenes like the one I saw in May at the new Lubar Entrepreneurship Center and UWM Welcome Center, where M3 honored the inaugural Early College class of 32 MPS students. They smiled, laughed and expressed their hopes for the future – a future that many did not believe was possible.
Graduates like Eric Andrekopoulos are proof of how lives have been so positively impacted by the M3 collaboration. He was initially nervous about his workload going into the Early College program and felt like he was “doomed to fail.”
That was hardly the case. After completing the program, he planned to join the Marine Corps as an aviation mechanic, the next step toward his goal of going into aerospace engineering.
“I see you’re trying to expand” the Early College program, Andrekopoulos said at the graduation ceremony, “and that’s a good thing to do, especially for upcoming generations.”