Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, June 4, 2018

Collins, Shager among Alliance for the American Dream leaders

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank

La Follette School Associate Professor J. Michael Collins and former La Follette School Associate Director Hilary Shager (MPA ’05, PhD ’12) are among the leaders of the Alliance for the American Dream: DreamUp Wisconsin, a new community-university collaboration aimed at promoting shared prosperity and increasing American competitiveness.

UW–Madison received a $1.5 million grant from Schmidt Futures to fund DreamUp, which challenges the university and community partners across public, private, and nonprofit sectors to develop innovative ideas for increasing the net income of 10,000 Dane County families by 10 percent by 2020.

UW–Madison is one of only four universities selected to participate in the inaugural program. At least one team from each participating university will receive continuing support in 2019.

UW–Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) will lead the proposal-development process, with Professor of Social Work and IRP Director Lonnie Berger as the principal investigator. Collins is a faculty lead with Laura Dresser, associate director of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy; and Shager, IRP’s associate director of programs & management/researcher, is the project manager. Berger and Shager also are La Follette School faculty affiliates.

“Our team welcomes La Follette alumni and partners to get involved,’ said Collins, an IRP affiliate and director of UW–Madison’s Center for Financial Security. “Visit our website, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to an upcoming meeting or event – we would love to talk with you about DreamUp and making a proposal.”

In addition to its data analysis, IRP is facilitating community forums, meetings, and interviews to define and understand Dane County’s economic challenges. In August and September, IRP will work with university and community members to generate potential solutions and initial proposal ideas. At least 10 community-university collaborations will receive additional funding and resources to develop full proposals.

IRP – the nation’s longest-standing center for poverty research – serves as the national Poverty Research Center, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Researchers collaborate across disciplines to learn about the causes and consequences of poverty and inequality, and the impact of related policies and programs. IRP’s goal is to reduce poverty and inequality and improve the well-being of the American people.

“IRP has been a primary contributor to research on poverty and related policy during its 52 years at the university,” UW–Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in this news release. “Now, with this grant from Schmidt Futures, the center has a direct support for expanding the middle class and improving the lives of people here in Dane County.”

Schmidt Futures, a venture facility for the public benefit, works to advance society through technology, inspire breakthroughs in scientific knowledge, and promote shared prosperity. It was founded by Eric Schmidt, technical advisor to Alphabet, a member of its Board of Directors, and former executive chairman.