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American Family Insurance Dream Studio debuts in Lubar Entrepreneurship Center at UW-Milwaukee


New collaboration space at UW-Milwaukee gives students, faculty and entrepreneurs skills in innovative thinking – creating a pipeline of talent and a resource for start-ups.

American Family Insurance is proud to invest in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s new Lubar Entrepreneurship Center, a focal point for entrepreneurship education and programs in the Milwaukee area.

The announcement of American Family’s investment of $1 million over four years was made Wednesday during the grand opening celebration of the 24,000–square-foot center at UWM that houses both the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center and the UWM Welcome Center.

The Lubar Entrepreneurship Center is a cross-disciplinary collaboration that features classrooms for courses and workshops, gathering spots for speakers, and labs for prototyping products and software.

The new facility was made possible by a $10 million lead gift from local philanthropists Sheldon and Marianne Lubar. Other significant support has come from the Kelben Foundation, established by Mary and Ted Kellner; Jerry Jendusa; Avi Shaked and Dr. Babs Waldman; and We Energies.

American Family's gift includes support of a flexible collaboration space known as the American Family Insurance Dream Studio. This room will be used as an instructional space related to programs that promote entrepreneurial innovation and technology.

Partnering to build stronger communities

“Our friends at American Family Insurance understand the great need our city and state have for innovation, and this gift will further our efforts to make innovation and entrepreneurship key facets of a UWM education,” said UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone. “This is the entrepreneurial thinking that will propel us forward and provide opportunities for the next generation of UWM graduates. We are thrilled with their generosity and the opportunity to announce it at our grand opening.”

“There is a private-sector passion for revitalization in Milwaukee, and we want to be part of that effort,” says Peter Gunder, American Family Insurance chief business development officer. “Through partnerships that encourage entrepreneurship, we can empower our communities to be better, more inclusive and resilient places,” said Gunder.

“A strong Milwaukee will help keep graduates here and draw more talent into Wisconsin,” said Justin Cruz, inclusive excellence vice president at American Family Insurance. “Having that diverse talent pipeline is not only important to better serve our customers, it results in improved collaboration between public entities and companies like American Family Insurance, and that leads to amazing accomplishments that are beneficial to everyone,” said Cruz.

Brian Thompson, director of the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center and president of the UWM Research Foundation, is deeply grateful for the growing support for the center and what its new space will mean for entrepreneurship at UWM.

“We have been building programs and partnerships for years throughout campus and in the community,” 

Thompson said. “The new building will provide a focal point for entrepreneurship at UWM and enhance what we’ve been doing. We’re teaching students how to develop their creative ideas and entrepreneurial skills – whether they are studying engineering, art or nursing. They’re learning how to identify opportunities, how to talk to potential customers and how to adapt their ideas to best meet customer needs. This generous support from American Family will bolster our efforts to make entrepreneurship a key area of focus at UWM.”

American Family’s gift supports UWM’s comprehensive fundraising effort, Made in Milwaukee, Shaping the World: The Campaign for UWM. The largest in UWM’s history, this campaign focuses on student success, research excellence and community engagement.

Justin Cruz at UWM Lubar Ctr

Video excerpt of Justin Cruz Wednesday, summarizing why American Family Insurance is investing in the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center.


About American Family Insurance

Madison, Wisconsin-based American Family Insurance group is the nation's 13th-largest property/casualty insurance group and ranks No. 311 on the Fortune 500 list. The company sells American Family-brand products, including auto, homeowners, life, business and farm/ranch insurance, primarily through its exclusive agents in 19 states. American Family affiliates (The General and Homesite) also provide options for consumers who want to manage their insurance matters directly over the internet or by phone. Affiliate Main Street America sells insurance products through independent agents. Web; Facebook; Twitter

About UWM

Recognized as one of the nation’s 131 top research universities, UW-Milwaukee provides a world-class education to 27,500 students from 91 countries on a budget of $689 million. Its 15 schools and colleges include Wisconsin’s only schools of architecture, freshwater sciences and public health, and it is a leading educator of nurses and teachers. UW-Milwaukee partners with leading companies to conduct joint research, offer student internships and serve as an economic engine for southeastern Wisconsin. The Princeton Review named UW-Milwaukee a 2019 “Best Midwestern” university based on overall academic excellence and student reviews, and the Sierra Club has recognized it as Wisconsin’s leading sustainable university. For more information about UWM’s campaign, visit