University announces President’s Challenge—Racial Justice and Equity Response

Marquette has partnered with Johnson Controls Foundation and American Family Insurance to announce a new President’s Challenge for Racial Justice and Equity Response, which will focus on the urgent issue of elevating and advancing racial justice and equity across Milwaukee’s various communities.

The President’s Challenge was created to provide funding for interdisciplinary teams of faculty, staff and students from the Marquette community for innovative and collaborative work that represents critical areas in the community’s recovery efforts. Partnerships with community organizations are highly encouraged from the ideation phase through the development of the proposal.

“We are facing the effects of three simultaneous crises—a pandemic, an economic crisis and ongoing racial injustice—and we know that parts of our community continue to be hit disproportionately hard by these issues,” Marquette President Michael R. Lovell said. “Our previous President’s Challenges have produced tangible results for Milwaukee families and communities, and this next iteration will continue to make a lasting impact in our city. I am grateful for our partnership with Johnson Controls Foundation and American Family Insurance as we advance our shared goal to create positive change in our community.”

The President’s Challenge will support proposals with up to $50,000 of grant funding for one year. Proposals are encouraged to address one or more within the following focus areas:

  • Social and Cultural, including, but not limited to, utilization of the arts; immigration; data ethics, including bias in coding; carceral reform; economic development; institutional, or industry policies and procedures; housing; and/or food insecurity.
  • Health Services, including, but not limited to, addressing disproportionate impacts of COVID-19; emotional and mental health; health care analytics; health care delivery; population health; health communications; and public health.
  • Education, including, but not limited to, fostering cradle-to-career pipeline; early education; talent development; virtual curriculum; innovative models for delivery; inequities in digital access; inequities in STEM education; representation in staff and curriculum.

A virtual information session on the President’s Challenge – Racial Justice and Equity Response Grant will take place on Feb. 18. Learn more and register.

“Johnson Controls is proud of its continued involvement with Marquette University, American Family Insurance and the President’s Challenge as it is an initiative designed to serve those in Milwaukee most affected by ongoing crises that are being worsened during this pandemic,” said Grady Crosby, vice president of public affairs at Johnson Controls and Johnson Controls Foundation president. “At Johnson Controls, we believe in finding new pathways to support healthier people, healthier places and a healthier planet. This challenge has proven to be a powerful way to leverage the best minds in Milwaukee, through the combination of Marquette faculty and community leaders, in a powerful way to create innovative solutions that respond to longstanding issues.”

Learning communities will be launched in each of the focus areas. Faculty, staff, students and community partners are invited to form teams around emerging proposal topics within the learning communities. Information on submitting a proposal, as well as timelines and updates for the program, are available on the President’s Challenge website, hosted by Marquette’s Office of Research and Innovation.

“We’re pleased to partner again with Marquette and Johnson Controls Foundation to support the important work of this year’s President’s Challenge, confronting the social construct of racism that continues to pervade our communities,” said Leana Nakielski, American Family strategic partnerships director. “American Family is committed to closing equity gaps, and what better way than investing in and elevating Milwaukee’s greatest asset — our people. This partnership is grounded in principled innovation, and we’re proud to be part of finding solutions that benefit communities and advance dignity, respect and equal opportunities for all.”

The President’s Challenge was first announced in 2018 through a partnership with Johnson Controls Foundation. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the President’s Challenge has adapted to address immediate needs in the community. The President’s Challenge for COVID-19 Response was held in 2020, leading to projects that studied the impact safer-at-home orders have on intimate partner violence; created an online toolkit resource for teachers to assist students from disproportionately affected populations with the effects of COVID-19 and systemic racism; and developed solutions to optimize public food service distribution to meet the growing need brought upon by sudden unemployment.

About Johnson Controls
At Johnson Controls, we transform the environments where people live, work, learn and play. From optimizing building performance to improving safety and enhancing comfort, we drive the outcomes that matter most. We deliver our promise in industries such as healthcare, education, data centers and manufacturing. With a global team of 100,000 experts in more than 150 countries and over 130 years of innovation, we are the power behind our customers’ mission. Our leading portfolio of building technology and solutions includes some of the most trusted names in the industry, such as Tyco®, YORK®, Metasys®, Ruskin®, Titus®, Frick®, Penn®, Sabroe®, Simplex®, Ansul® and Grinnell®. For more information, visit or follow us @johnsoncontrols on Twitter.

About the American Family Insurance Group
Based in Madison, Wisconsin, American Family Insurance has been serving customers since 1927. We inspire, protect and restore dreams through our insurance products, exceptional service from our agency owners and employees, community investment and creative partnerships to address societal challenges. We act on our belief in diversity and inclusion by constantly evolving to meet customer needs and preferences. American Family Insurance group is the nation’s 13th-largest property/casualty insurance group, ranking No. 254 on the Fortune 500 list. The group sells American Family-brand products, primarily through exclusive agency owners in 19 states. The American Family Insurance group also includes CONNECT, powered by American Family Insurance, The GeneralHomesite and Main Street America. Across these companies the group has more than 13,500 employees nationwide.