By Chris Haise

Living in Wauwatosa has countless benefits, from great schools and quiet streets to exceptional restaurants.  Wauwatosa has long been known as “The City of Homes and Churches”, but the community is quickly evolving into a hub for higher education and medical research.

Tosa is home to several schools, including both main and satellite campuses, graduate and undergraduate institutions. The schools with their main campuses in Wauwatosa are the Medical College of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Lutheran.  UWM, Bryant and Stratton College, and Concordia University have satellite campuses in Wauwatosa.  The main campus of Mount Mary University is just outside of Tosa proper.

The Medical College of Wisconsinresize-mcw

The Medical College of Wisconsin is the largest institution with its main campus in Tosa.  The Medical College began as Wisconsin College of Physicians and Surgeons with the original location Fourth Street and Reservoir Avenue in Milwaukee.

The school was eventually absorbed by Marquette University and became the Marquette University School of Medicine.  In 1932, the Harriet L Cramer Memorial Building on the Marquette campus became the new home for the Medical College.

In an effort to cut costs, Marquette University decided to abandon its sponsorship of the school.  After some scrambling, the Medical College moved to Tosa in 1976 on the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center campus, one of the original residents of the now sprawling complex.

The Medical College of Wisconsin’s contributions to research and medicine include the foundation of the International Bone Marrow Transplant Registry, the first successful liver transplant performed in Milwaukee, and innovations in rabies treatments amongst many others.

The Medical College of Wisconsin is now the second largest research institution in the state.  This dedication to medical research and innovation has attracted other institutions to position themselves closely to the Medical College and the Medical Complex.


uwm-innovation_exterior-2UW-Milwaukee Brings Innovation to Tosa
In 2008, UW-Milwaukee proposed a move to the county grounds in Wauwatosa to create its “Innovation Campus”,  a center for bioengineering research.  The location was selected almost entirely due to its proximity to the Medical College of Wisconsin, as the research done by both institutions allows them to have a strong partnership around biomedical research. The MCW-UWM combination makes Wauwatosa the country’s seventh-largest center of biomedical research, a staggering achievement.

The Innovation Campus has contributed greatly to the research done on the county grounds and transformed the landscape around the Medical Complex.  The Campus, conveniently located across Watertown Plank from the Medical Complex, has added to the draw of the area, attracting the Concordia University School of Pharmacy and, recently, the bioengineering research of Marquette University.

The impact of these institutions of higher learning is being felt beyond schools and laboratories.  The need to accommodate students and researchers flooding into the area has led to the Wauwatosa Common Council approving the development of extended-stay hotels and other potential housing developments. One developer behind the new construction was exclusively attracted by the “University Suburb” sensibilities of Tosa, saying “We only build hotels in university communities.”

Wisconsin Lutheran Grows in Tosawlc-resize

The other school with its main campus in Wauwatosa is Wisconsin Lutheran College.  The school purchased facilities in 1977, acquiring five buildings on an eight and half acre campus.

Obtaining a campus space, along with the acquisition of the library holdings from Milton College and the science laboratory furnishings from UW-Medford Center, allowed Wisconsin Lutheran College to transform itself into a four year college in a very short amount of time.

The expansion of the quaint Tosa campus has continued at a steady pace, with Wisconsin Lutheran purchasing two and a half additional acres adjacent to the campus in 1985.  The College constructed seven new buildings on their budding campus between 1988 and 2004.

In recent years the school has developed an outdoor athletic complex near Underwood Parkway that is visible from the freeway, and a new residence hall.

Wisconsin Lutheran has an enrollment of 1,200, with 30% of those students not living in residence on campus.  The daily influx of commuters that Wisconsin Lutheran and other institutions bring to Wauwatosa is a boon to local businesses.  The Medical Complex alone draws 30,000 daily visitors, with the local Universities swelling those numbers.

While only MCW and Wisconsin Lutheran have their main campuses in Wauwatosa, the presence of other satellite institutions certainly contribute to Tosa’s reputation as the “University Suburb”. Bryant & Stratton’s Tosa campus is as comprehensive as its downtown site, and UWM’s Innovation Campus in Wauwatosa, as previously mentioned, has become the attraction for a variety of top-flight private research facilities.

mount-mary-1Mount Mary Finds its Place

Just outside of Wauwatosa we find Mount Mary University.  The school was founded in Prairie du Chien in 1913 as the first four-year Catholic college for women in Wisconsin.

Mount Mary moved to its current location in 1928 because of a request by former Archbishop Messmer of Milwaukee.  The Archdiocese hoped that the school, then called St. Mary’s College, could make Catholic education available to a wider group of students, and also to provide for its students the advantages of a metropolitan center.

While the school only had 132 students and two Gothic style buildings when its Milwaukee doors opened in 1929, the interceding years would see the School Sisters of Notre Dame add several residence halls, classroom buildings, an auditorium, a renovated library, and much more.

The school has also expanded its academic offerings, growing into one of the premier nursing programs in the state, and adding coed graduate options for its students. In 2013, 100 years after its initial founding, this academic expansion led to Mount Mary College being renamed Mount Mary University.

Local Schools Cooperate to Provide Opportunities to Students

Cooperation between the Universities in Tosa has grown steadily and been a catalyst for educational growth in the city.  The previously discussed partnership between the Medical College in UWM is redefining biomedical research as well as the Medical Complex and surrounding area.

In 2012, Mount Mary and the Medical College of Wisconsin entered into a collaborative agreement to provide a dual degree program for students to earn a four year baccalaureate degree from Mount Mary and a one year Master of Public Health degree from the Medical College.  It is the first 4+1 program of its kind to be offered by the two institutions.

Ideally, the close proximity and groundbreaking work done by local Universities will lead to further collaborations and more opportunities for students to obtain a world-class education.

The existing infrastructure and resources, coupled with immediate plans for additional institutions of higher learning, indicates the future is bright for Wauwatosa as the “University Suburb”.