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The Center for Urban Education Ministries (CUEM) began as the dream of a few dedicated urban educators and philanthropists seeking to support those involved in urban ministry. Charles and Mary Gundelach, Les Bayer, Richard Engebrecht, and Mel Kieschnick were instrumental in the establishment of the Center at Concordia University, Bronxville, NY in the fall of 1980. For over 20 years, the Center provided resources through workshops and print resources for urban Lutheran educators throughout the U.S. In early 2000, CUEM found its home at Wheat Ridge Ministries and later as a ministry of Lutheran Social Services of New York. 2018 saw the Center for Urban Education Ministries reborn with a fresh mission and unwavering focus. CUEM is now a separate non-profit organization (501c3) located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Its mission is clear - to "relentlessly strengthen urban education." The three focus areas serve to be impactful: Recruitment, Resources, and Recognition.







Our Core Values





Dr. Steve Gerner is a university dean, professor, educational strategist, author, and driven leader passionate about urban school success. 


Lifelong learning is necessary to navigate through the constant changes and challenges that surround education. Dr. Gerner holds a state teaching license and administrator's license.

He has created and taught numerous university courses that include, "Diversity in the Classroom", "Human Learning and Motivation", "Analysis of Classroom Practice", and "Human Relations for Teachers". Leadership involves courage, passion, knowledge, and effective communication. Dr. Gerner's leadership embraced these skills as a school administrator, university department chair, executive director of an institute, and university dean. Research-based publications and presentations are given monthly on education topics such as student success, city challenges, recruitment, funding, teacher quality, student engagement, marketing, and innovation. Superhero Educator: How to Teach with Superior Skills and Success has been wildly popular with educational stakeholders. Raising funds and awareness is an imperative for any organization. Dr. Gerner's creativity and persistence has resulted in great success to champion urban education, mental health, and educational innovations. Innovation is extremely important to add value, stay relevant, foster excitement, and secure funding. Training programs, continual improvement models, success metrics, data dashboards, active coaching, and impact projects are just a few of the innovative approaches to improving urban education that were developed by Dr. Gerner. Daily, he looks to ways to "relentlessly strengthen urban education".

Our Executive

OUR Director of programming & Communications



Devan Lenz-Fisher, M.Ed is a licensed K-12 educator, social justice activist, higher educational professional, and technology guru. 


With a commitment to student success and retention across a variety of domains, Devan thrives in using her organizational excellence to strategically implement CUEM communications, marketing and programming alongside Dr. Steve Gerner. As a collaborator in "The Center's '6'" video collection, Devan enjoys sharing her digital tools to support teachers. Devan also owns a non-profit organization solely created to funnel funding into schools to strengthen her local and global communities. Lastly, she has worked with a variety of universities to engage students in meaningful volunteer and social justice work. Devan's passion is ignited when she is cultivating potential in others, creating effective systems, and doing both for the greater good of the community. 

Devan holds a teaching license from the state of Wisconsin; a Master's Degree from Marquette in Student Affairs in Higher Education; and both a Bachelors in Education as well as a foreign language certificate in Spanish from St. Norbert College.


Our Board of Directors is a diverse group of national leaders, experienced innovators, and insightful education experts.


Judy Benke, New York (CHAIR)

Judith Meyer, St. Louis (CO-CHAIR)

Janine Bolling, New York

Jane Buerger, Illinois

LuJuana Butts, New York

Rich Erickson, Wisconsin

Yvonne Ferwerda, MIchigan

James Handrich, Florida

Michael Hillis, California

Kent Schlichtemeier, California

Christopher Steinmann, Ohio

Chrishirella Warthen-Sutton, Wisconsin

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