On a cold evening in late January, my friend, Auriana, sent me a web link to a newly created Facebook page called “March for Science – Milwaukee” along with a short message saying, “I don’t know what I’m doing…HA!”.

At that time, she and I were the only ones who had “liked” the page, but today when I click on that old link in my Facebook messenger, it takes me to a new page: Milwaukee Area Science Advocates. So how did we get here? In less than a year, our ragtag team of engineers, zoo conservationists, coffee bean reps, health coaches, graphic designers, teachers, and too many others to name formed a science advocacy nonprofit. I remember the night before the March for Science I could barely sleep. Months of planning, permitting, and fundraising was leading up to a single afternoon of national science solidarity. We came together to stand behind science for one day, but knew we couldn’t easily walk away from this mission. What had started as a national movement became a local and personal topic for us – as students, educators, scientists, parents, cashiers, baristas, engineers, artists, doctors, brew masters – as Milwaukeeans.

Volunteers for The March for Science – Milwaukee on April 22, 2017

Milwaukee loves science. This was the original slogan of the organization created only a few hours into the march planning. We were making a “back of the napkin” list of organizations and institutions we thought we should reach out to about the march, and after three napkins and the back of a receipt it was clear that this march was in the right city. Milwaukee is home to a plethora of educational institutions, water and environmental organizations, breweries, medical centers, and public and private leaders in scientific research. Science is woven into the very fabric that makes up the Milwaukee community. The Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Discovery World, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Marquette University, the Global Water Center, Milwaukee Public Museum, the list goes on. One needn’t look far to find world famous science and technology centers right here in Milwaukee. Milwaukee was recently recognized as Number 41 in the Forbes ranking of Cities Creating the Most Tech Jobs in 2017, and for the past decade Milwaukee has cultivated its reputation as an international freshwater technology hub.

Cristal Sanchez (right) evaluates her cladophora cultures from an incubator with Dr. Carmen Aguilar (left) at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences.

With the presence of these institutions, as well as over 2,000 nonprofits in the Greater Milwaukee area, we thought deeply and realistically about how we could impact our community in a meaningful way. One of my very first “nonprofit mentors” reminded me to ask the question, “What is the gap your organization is filling?”

Since MASA’s inception through the March for Science, we’ve seen that science can bring people together. While organizing the march, we reached out to the usual suspects – organizations and institutions that publicly exhibit all the pro-science feels (museums, colleges, and research centers). But one of the most inspirational and rewarding parts of organizing the march was meeting the non-scientists advocating for science. We spoke with religious groups, organizations fighting hunger, conservatives advocating for climate change mitigation, and local hunters and fishermen. As an organization, we began to see our mission unfold as we had the opportunity to observe the way science and science-related policies have impacted the lives of every Greater Milwaukee resident no matter their political affiliation.

There is nothing partisan about a lead latteral supplying tap water to a family’s kitchen faucet. The non-native quagga mussels infiltrating Lake Michigan and changing its water chemistry do not prefer CNN over Fox News. Inspiring younger generations to engage in science and technology fields for a healthy future society is not a controversial topic.

A future engineer and zoologist at the March for Science – Milwaukee on April 22, 2017

Although science might seem like a divisive topic in the current political climate, we at MASA believe that science has the power to cross the bounds of ideological aisles for a common purpose – clean water, good jobs, access to healthy food, and medical advances. We’ve committed strongly to a political but nonpartisan ideology because we believe that science knows no political party affiliation.

As the Milwaukee Area Science Advocates, our mission is for every resident of Milwaukee to be curious and engaged in science in their everyday lives, and to value science as a foundational pillar to American society and governance. We won’t tell you who to vote for and we won’t tell you what to think. As your local science resource, we’ll simply provide the facts and let you decide.  

A lot has changed since we marched in Red Arrow Park in April 2017, and we’re excited about who we’re becoming as the Milwaukee Area Science Advocates. In less than a year, we’ve hosted fundraising events, created interactive science activities, and produced lots of original MASA content. I’d like to share some of the accomplishments of MASA to highlight my wonderful co-organizers’ hard work and inspire you to get involved!

  • MASA held its organization kickoff event in June 2017 featuring a panel discussion on climate change and interactive science demonstrations by local organizations, businesses and institutions
  • In July 2017, ten teams of bikers participated in MASA’s Savor, Sip & Cycle event to highlight sustainable Bay View restaurants
  • Since March 2017, MASA has written over 50 original articles covering national and local science topics
  • From September through October 2017, over 600 science books were collected through the MASA Science Book Drive to donate to Milwaukee students to inspire future scientists and engineers
  • MASA continues to conduct Urban Garden Project bimonthly workshops with partnering organizations (Compost Crusader, Hunger Task Force) at the Milwaukee Women’s Center to demonstrate DIY sustainability and at-home gardening
  • Internship programs through MASA are now available for high school and college students
  • Since October 2017 MASA has participated in Discovery World’s Science Saturdays! Catch us at Discovery World on 12/2 and 12/16

If you have an idea for MASA, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me via email at nora@milwaukeescience.org. If you like the work we’re doing, please consider making a tax-deductible donation! MASA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization as recognized by the Internal Revenue Service.

Written by Nora Sadik for the Milwaukee Area Science Advocates

  1. Way to go MASA!

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