Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Kohl's $1.5 million gift to fund La Follette School research

Herb Kohl Herb Kohl

A $1.5 million gift from Herb Kohl Philanthropies will support faculty research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs. The gift will create the Herb Kohl Public Service Research Competition, which will sponsor innovative research that provides evidence-based information to address tough public policy and governance issues.

Award recipients will be chosen based on the relevance, importance, and impact of the research in Wisconsin and beyond. Students will benefit through high-quality experiential learning opportunities as research assistants applying the policy analysis skills they learn at the La Follette School.

“The La Follette School is a critical academic unit at UW-Madison, especially in an atmosphere of heightened partisanship and polarization,” said Kohl, a former U.S. Senator who serves on the La Follette School’s Board of Visitors. “By funding applied research, this gift also is meant to help the La Follette School attract and retain the best and brightest faculty members in our state.”

La Follette School Director Susan Yackee stressed that the Kohl Competition will be instrumental to keeping top faculty at UW-Madison because the best faculty members want to work on cutting-edge research that betters society. The research competition will fund a variety of activities, which may include the hiring of student assistants, collection or analysis of data, and dissemination of results.

“Society’s most challenging problems rarely resolve themselves,” Yackee said. “New idea creation and applied, nonpartisan research are needed to move the state and nation forward.”

A proud alumnus of UW-Madison, Kohl donated a $25 million lead gift for the Kohl Center athletic facility on campus. Kohl, who is president of Herb Kohl Philanthropies, received his bachelor’s degree in American institutions from UW-Madison in 1956. After 24 years in the U.S. Senate, Kohl retired in 2011.

The awards from the Herb Kohl Public Service Research Competition will go to faculty members with the most innovative ideas, Yackee said. Research may support discoveries in areas such as job-training programs for Wisconsin, new ways of alleviating poverty in Milwaukee and elsewhere, the politics of genomics, and international monetary policy.

“This is, by far, the largest single donation to the La Follette School, and I want to express our utmost gratitude,” Yackee said.

The funds will be spent over five years. Further details about the research competition will be posted on the La Follette School website when they become available.