UWM Broadens Horizons

School of Public Health will move to brewery site

[Image] UWM Broadens Horizons


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By Shane Cuccia

The middle-aged woman greets a visitor with a weary smile.

“I have been in meetings since eleven a.m.” said Bonnie Halvorsen Associate Dean of UW-Milwaukee’s School of Public Health.

It was the end of the day.

Halvorsen does not mind the meetings, because once the chaos clears the School of Public Health will have a brand new facility in the fall of 2012 as a part of the Brewery Project in downtown Milwaukee.

Halvorsen was on the committee that first started the School of Public Health five years ago.

“We have really terrible health disparities here in Milwaukee partly because we are a very segregated city. Our citizens from the African-American community for example have very high infant death mortality rates and it’s difficult on the entire community,” said Halvorsen.

“So because we are the largest urban center in the state and because we have health disparities like that one. We felt that we should have a School of Public Health here in Milwaukee.”

The School of Public Health currently calls the Alumni House home.

The new school was launched at the UWM in spring of 2008 and has been growing ever since.

The school first offered only a Graduate Certificate in Public Health. In fall of 2009 it launched its PhD program in Environmental & Occupational Health.

With the increased interest, the School of Public Health wanted to expand its curriculum by offering more PhD programs and starting a Master’s Program.

In order to expand, the School of Public Health needed two things: more faculty and more space.

Space is a need many other departments have at the UWM and it is one that is hard to fill, even with the university’s purchase of the Columbia Hospital property (now called the Northwest Quadrant) and the recent development of remote dorm sites on North Avenue.

The School of Public Health’s need was alleviated when Milwaukee philanthropist Joseph Zilber pledged ten million dollars to the school in 2007, enabling the new school to expand.

Before he died in 2010, Zilber purchased the old Pabst Brewery buildings with the plan of redeveloping and then leasing them out. Zilber Ltd. is still overseeing the project.

With a ten million dollar donation and a new space the School of Public Health had the ability to expand.

In April, the school received approval for its Masters program in public health.
The School of Public Health also hopes to launch two more PhD programs in 2012. By fall of 2012 the school will have half of its programs up and running with the hope that the rest will follow once more money becomes available.                                 

Without the new facility the School of Public Health would not be able to expand its curriculum.
The Master’s program will have five tracks including Bio-Statistics, Epidemiology, Community and Behavioral Health Promotions, Public Health Administration & Policy, and Environmental & Occupational Health.

The school will still have labs in Lapham Hall for its Environmental & Occupational Health PhD program.

The School is also under consideration to become a part of the Northwest Quadrant, but that project is in the beginning stages and it is too early to tell if Public Health will receive any space. 

Impact and Opportunities

Amy Harley has been an Associate Professor at UW-Milwaukee for the past three years. Harley is from the Detroit area and went to Indiana University for her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. She then attended Ohio State University for her PhD.

She is a registered dietitian and works in the social and behavioral science fields of public health. She has worked for the National Fitness and Sport Association and Harvard University.

Harley found the opportunity to come to UW-Milwaukee one she could not pass up.

“It just seemed like a really good fit in terms of the energy and excitements around public health in Milwaukee,” said Harley.

Harley is also excited about the Pabst Brewery location.

“Being downtown will give us the opportunity to be in close proximity to the people that we need to serve,” said Harley “asking people to come where we are located now is a barrier for us.”

The location also puts the School of Public Health closer to people and agencies such as the City of Milwaukee’s Health Department.

The close proximity to research partners benefits the School of Public Health and the University as a whole.

“Down the road this project could increase the research opportunities for the university, thereby increasing its recognition and prestige,” said Amy Harley.

With more research opportunities come more money and a greater chance that professors will get recognized nationally.

UW-Milwaukee has been seen as the “little brother” not only in the UW-system, but in the city of Milwaukee as well.

UW-Madison has the image of the best public university in the state of Wisconsin. Marquette, although a private institution, is more recognized by the public than UW-Milwaukee.

With Masters and PhD programs and a new home at the Brewery Project, the School of Public Health at UW-Milwaukee will soon have something that UW-Madison and Marquette do not: an accredited School of Public Health.

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