Milwaukee architect Hacker building reputation as instructor at MATC

Mark Feldmann,

March 29, 2022

MILWAUKEE – Michael Hacker practically grew up with a hammer in his hand.

For generations, his family worked in the trades, installing roofs, repairing plumbing and remodeling homes. Through their efforts, Hacker learned the value of working hard, respecting customers and taking pride in an honest day’s labor. 

He also acquired a passion for the skills required to design, develop and construct buildings. So with the support of this family, Hacker left Illinois and headed to Milwaukee, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in architecture at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, then worked as an architect in Milwaukee for 13 years. 

In 2020, he became a full-time instructor at the Milwaukee Area Technical College, using his innate communication skills to impart his extensive architectural expertise to future architects, builders and developers.

“I think that always, deep down, there was a draw to the classroom,” Hacker said. “I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to join the talented team of educators at MATC and it has been a great experience.”

The Milwaukee Business Journal recently recognized Hacker’s impressive architectural and educational accomplishments by naming him one of Milwaukee’s Top 40 Leaders Under 40 years old. The winners were honored Monday, March 28, at the Miller High Life Theatre. 

“It’s humbling,” he said about the award. “This is a group that has carried the torch for making positive changes to this city. It’s amazing to be honored in that company.”

Hacker is also thrilled to be a part of MATC’s Architectural Technology associate in applied science degree program, a two-year course of study that prepares students for work in architecture- and construction-related fields. 

Hacker teaches five or six courses each semester in the program. Students are introduced to architectural design and drafting, then receive extensive training in computer-aided drafting and Building Information Modeling (BIM). Students also learn how to go on interviews, make presentations and create résumés.

The program provides students with the skills needed to work with architects, engineers, contractors, designers, and building material manufacturers and suppliers. Graduates can either continue their architectural education, enhance and advance their current careers, or start working as drafters, detailers, modelers, estimators or inspectors.

“The advancements in technology within the industry right now have really opened up what you can do with this education,” Hacker said. “Our program provides a great base to develop the skill sets that students need in the market, and companies are seeking.”

And because of his extensive knowledge of the industry, Hacker has become a valued part of the program’s faculty, said Daniel Inyang, lead faculty for the Architectural Technology Program. 

“Michael joined us at the peak of the pandemic  when everything was constantly in a state of flux, so I know it was not easy for him,” Inynag said. “He is nimble, a quick learner, works well with the students and has been able to adapt to the rigors of teaching at MATC. It has been quite nice to have Michael on board as a fellow instructor.”

Milwaukee itself is full of architecture lessons, Hacker said. For example, the Ascent MKE building being constructed on East Kilbourn Avenue, when completed this summer, will be the largest free-standing mass timber structure in the world, he said.

“We can read about mass timber in a textbook, then we can actually go see it being constructed in-person, talk with the developers, the designers, and the builders - it is an invaluable experience for our students,” Hacker said. 

Hacker has forged a special bond with Milwaukee since moving here 20 years ago. Along with his now wife, Stephanie, an urban planner, he attended UWM. They had their wedding reception in the middle of Broadway in the Third Ward after receiving special permission to close it down for the occasion. 

Hacker also has been impressed with the diversity at MATC, its commitment to the surrounding neighborhoods, and the services it provides to students and staff to help them succeed.

“I have lived in Milwaukee a long time and I thought I knew MATC, but it turned out I really had so much to learn,” he said. “The college is very rooted in the community, and the resources offered to students are phenomenal.”

In January 2021, Hacker opened his own architectural owners representative consulting agency, Cadence Consulting, which specializes in public projects, working with clients like schools, municipalities and non-profits. Previously he had worked at Bray Architects.    

At Cadence he helps clients develop renovations and new construction, and helps educate stakeholders to understand the building process. 

“Communicating with teachers, staff and residents about processes, options and decisions all aligns with what I do in the classroom,” he said. “And I have found that all very fulfilling.”

Wisconsin’s largest technical college and one of the most diverse two-year institutions in the Midwest, Milwaukee Area Technical College is a key driver of southeastern Wisconsin’s economy and has provided innovative education in the region since 1912. More than 25,000 students per year attend the college’s four campuses and community-based sites or learn online. MATC offers affordable and accessible education and training opportunities that empower and transform lives in the community. The college offers more than 170 academic programs; and transfer options leading to bachelor’s degrees with more than 40 four-year colleges and universities. Overwhelmingly, MATC graduates build careers and businesses in southeastern Wisconsin. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.