Students help President Ferry ceremoniously shovel the dirt for the new academic building.

More than 250 people gathered on Tuesday, April 24, to commemorate the beginning of Concordia University Wisconsin’s latest building project, The Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center.

With state-of-the-art features, such as a functioning medical clinic and an incubator and collaboration space for nurturing business start-ups, the approximately 41,000-square-foot academic building promises to be a place where entrepreneurial collaboration and health care innovation can occur together.

“Today is a day to mark a beginning, and yet a lot has preceded this day,” President Rev. Patrick T. Ferry, PhD, told those who gathered. He proceeded to acknowledge the myriad individuals and groups who have supported the project along the way. “Lots of lives will be touched because of the work that will be done in this building.”

Remarks were also delivered by Concordia’s Campus Pastor Rev. Steve Smith, Batterman School of Business Dean Dr. Dan Sem, School of Health Professions Dean Dr. Linda Samuel, Student Government Association President Colter Dziekan, and campaign chair Michael White. White, who is also the owner, chairman, and CEO of Rite-Hite Corporation, delivered a surprise announcement that his company would donate $1 million to the project.

The three-story building is expected to be finished by fall 2019. Named after the Robert W. Plaster Foundation, the academic building will house Concordia’s thriving Batterman School of Business, which graduates more students than any other academic school in the university. For the past five years, the Batterman School of Business’ MBA program has topped the Milwaukee Business Journal’s list of largest MBA programs within a 100-mile radius of Milwaukee.

Batterman School of Business Dean Dr. Dan Sem talks with Student Government Association President Colter Dziekan after the groundbreaking ceremony.Batterman School of Business Dean Dr. Dan Sem talks with Student Government Association President Colter Dziekan after the groundbreaking ceremony.

In addition, Concordia students studying health care will be invited into the space. With half of CUW’s six academic schools devoted to health care disciplines, there exists a built-in opportunity to fuse business and health care learning.

Already, Concordia has demonstrated its leadership in this area by leading multiple start-up or accelerator competitions designed to support participants who are developing innovative health care solutions. Concordia also annually hosts the Healthcare Economics Summit, which focuses each year on the subject of the business of health care. The past two years’ summits have welcomed nationally recognized keynote speakers including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the incoming president of the American Medical Association, Dr. Barbara McAneny.

The new building will continue to support Concordia’s efforts in this realm. It will feature:

  • Multiple classrooms, offices, and mixed-use rooms such as laboratories, work rooms, analysis centers, and public areas.
  • A dynamic, cross-disciplinary “collaboratorium”, or incubator/collaboration space that will match students with educational mentors and successful community entrepreneurs to foster the formation and launching of new products into the marketplace.
  • A medical clinic that will model the consumerization of health care using free-market principles. The clinic, which will involve students in Concordia’s School of Health Professions and Batterman School of Business, will deliver top-notch health care while providing experiential learning opportunities for students.
  • A meeting space for the Rx think tank, which is a consortium of Wisconsin business leaders who share a goal to consumerize health care by incentivizing, educating, and empowering consumers in transparent markets.

The clinic will be co-managed by faculty and students in CUW’s growing health care administration program. Of the 819 students enrolled in CUW’s MBA program, 90 are pursuing the health care administration track—a number that has doubled in the past three years.

The Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center is made possible thanks to the support of multiple donors from the business community, including: American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation, Theodore W. Batterman Family Foundation, Robert W. Plaster Foundation, Lutheran Church Extension Fund, Rite-Hite Corporation Foundation, Sargento Foods, Inc., ICG, Kohlwey Family, Mayer Helminiak Architects LLC., and Tom Nieman, owner of Mequon-based Fromm Family Foods.

The American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation has pledged $250,000 to the building project and will looking at other ways to partner with Concordia University.

“Our support for the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center complements American Family’s commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Bill Westrate, American Family Insurance president. “We’ll also be exploring a variety of opportunities for collaboration with Concordia that could include educational offerings, data analytics and specialized professional training. We’re excited about this opportunity and look forward to a mutually beneficial partnership.”

Philanthropic support for The Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center has already been substantial, but more needs to be done to complete the project. If you or your business would like to be part of this innovative project, please contact Vice President of the CUW Foundation Dean Rennicke at or 262-243-4580.

— This story is written by Kali Thiel, director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at or 262-243-2149.

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