First-ever “State of the Ecosystem” report released by CURTO at Marquette University

Aug. 18, 2021

"State of the Ecosystem" coverMILWAUKEE — The Center for Urban Research, Teaching and Outreach (CURTO) at Marquette University has released its first “State of the Ecosystem” report, which includes a developing map of networks of support available to Black and Latino/a students within the Greater Milwaukee area.

The project, undertaken by the Black and Latino/a Ecosystem and Support Transition (BLEST) Hub housed within CURTO, also identified best practices and emerged from dialogues with local activists and organizations to address challenges related to enrollment and retention of Milwaukee-area Black and Latino/a students in post-secondary education and the job market.

“Wisconsin has one of the worst educational achievement gaps in the nation and these gaps only widen when students enter higher education,” the report says. “We were motivated in launching this project by the need to analyze and foster a better educational environment for our students of color.”

To develop this report, the BLEST Hub met with organizations, activists and institutional offices and actors; mapped the ecosystem of supports; engaged in targeted research projects; and collected and systematized the ways that success in this area have been previously defined and measured. The Hub also ran programming by building upon initiatives already housed within CURTO to harness the potential of Marquette and its resources to create new support opportunities for Black and Latino/a students in Milwaukee.

“By focusing our work on transitions, we are hoping to maximize the resources that Milwaukee offers,” the report says. “However, this work cannot be done in isolation because transitions are intersecting spaces. Therefore, in order to understand the opportunities and the struggles that our youth encounter; in order to serve them better, we need to continually work towards strengthening collaboration efforts among organizations.”

Along with the report, the BLEST Hub released the “Support and Services Ecosystem Map for Milwaukee Black and Latino/a Students” — an interactive map which provides a visual representation of Milwaukee’s actors and the partnerships that exist between the number of non-profits, government entities, for-profit organizations, grassroots organizations and coalitions in the city.

Dr. Gabriel Velez, assistant professor of educational policy and leadership at Marquette and faculty director of the BLEST Hub, co-led the preparation of the report with Saúl Lopez and Verónica Mancheno, graduate students in the College of Education. The BLEST Hub has emerged from years of work of two members of the leadership team in Dr. Robert Smith, director of CURTO and Harry G. John Professor of History, and Walter Lanier, director of the student resource center at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

The vision of the BLEST Hub is to contribute to improving life outcomes for Black and Latino/a students in the Milwaukee area by reinforcing spaces and connections that support these students during periods of transition from middle school through post-secondary completion and/or fulfilling and stable employment. This encompasses fostering synergy across organizations, institutions and government efforts; understanding and identifying gaps in services offered; and working towards amplifying and supplementing what is available.

CURTO positions itself as an intellectual axis and key convener of programs that address issues central to affirming human rights and human dignity. In alignment with Marquette’s mission to search for truth and the discovery and sharing of knowledge, the center facilitates collaborations that bring together a wide array of community and campus experts.

About Kevin Conway

Kevin Conway

Kevin is the associate director for university communication in the Office of University Relations. Contact Kevin at (414) 288-4745 or