Photo by Andrew Bayda/Shutterstock

The dramatic rise in large cities over the past 50 years has created some of society’s most difficult problems and most promising opportunities. Rika and I want to put some of our resources towards addressing these issues.”
—Joe Mansueto
AB'78, MBA'80

The University of Chicago is launching an institute that will create new opportunities for urban scholarship and education with positive and lasting impact for cities around the world, supported by a $35 million gift from College alumni Joe and Rika Mansueto. Joe Mansueto is founder and CEO of Morningstar, Inc., and an alumnus of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

The Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation will bring together programs in the social, natural, and computational sciences and in the humanities to enhance the University’s strengths in urban scholarship and education. The institute will serve as an intellectual destination for urban scholars, students, policymakers and practitioners. It also will work with UChicago divisions and schools to train the next generation of urban scholars and practitioners.

“The Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation will build on the University’s long history of urban scholarship and education, and will bring perspectives from across the institution to develop an understanding of the processes that drive, shape and sustain cities,” said President Robert J. Zimmer. “In recent years our faculty and deans have articulated the opportunity for a multidisciplinary institute that could enhance and foster a distinctive perspective in urban research and education. We are very grateful for the Mansuetos’ support that will enable these ideas to be realized.”

Joe Mansueto, AB’78, MBA’80, and Rika Mansueto, AB’91, previously donated $25 million to support construction of the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library. They said they hope the new institute will help form new collaborations to address the opportunities and challenges facing cities worldwide.

“The dramatic rise in large cities over the past 50 years has created some of society’s most difficult problems and most promising opportunities. Rika and I want to put some of our resources towards addressing these issues,” said Joe Mansueto. “We’re also excited about taking a multidisciplinary approach to finding solutions. The University of Chicago has tremendous expertise in a variety of disciplines, but we’re hopeful that bringing them together will produce even greater innovation. Finally, we want to support the application of academic findings into public policy to have an enduring impact for people around the globe.”

The Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation will be a hub on campus focused on the possibilities of urbanization—from better health care to understanding and enhancing the well-being of urban youth—to developing effective housing policies and reducing violence.

Through this work, the institute will play a key role in the University’s comprehensive and integrative efforts to bridge urban scholarship, practice and engagement—an institutional commitment known as UChicago Urban. The new institute adds to ongoing efforts in academic units across campus, rounding out a focus on urban scholarship and education. The institute also will work closely with initiatives such as the Urban Education Institute and Urban Labs, which translate research into effective practices and programs around the most complex questions facing cities, in partnership with policymakers. Finally, the institute will work closely with the Office of Civic Engagement, which works to have a positive impact in Chicago that can be spread to cities around the world.

“The most significant challenges facing cities need to be addressed from multiple disciplines and approaches. The Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation will help generate the type of knowledge needed to realize the possibilities of our increasingly urban society,” said Sian Beilock, vice provost for academic initiatives. “This ambitious approach will create new opportunities for UChicago faculty and students, as well as urban scholars around the world.”

Bringing together policymakers, practitioners

The Mansueto Institute will accelerate cross-disciplinary urban scholarship across campus through competitive seed funding for urban research projects. Working with divisions and schools across the University, the institute will help develop classes, internships and other new opportunities for undergraduates, and expanded support for graduate students and postdocs with urban interests.

The institute also aims to be a virtual destination by establishing a library of integrated urban data and developing the analytic tools needed to use these data to understand and compare urban areas, both in the United States and around the world. It also will work to bring policymakers and practitioners in urban fields to campus to work with students and faculty to enrich life in cities worldwide. The institute’s location on campus has not yet been determined.

The University will immediately begin a search for an outstanding urban scholar and leader to direct the institute. A faculty steering committee will advise the process. The Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation will open shortly after a director is appointed and arrives on campus.

“An institute devoted to studying the broad set of questions related to urban issues, and drawing upon many unique strengths of the University, will help make UChicago the pre-eminent destination for the study of important urban issues," ​said Kerwin Charles, deputy dean and the Edwin and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor in the Harris School of Public Policy.

The gift from Joe and Rika Mansueto is part of the University of Chicago Campaign: Inquiry and Impact, the most ambitious fundraising campaign in University history, which will raise $4.5 billion and engage 125,000 alumni by 2019.

Originally published on March 9, 2016.