Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs

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The Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs is an integral component of the Wisconsin Idea — the emphasis on the university serving the entire state and the more focused role of experts providing assistance to state policymakers.

Indeed, the genesis of the Wisconsin Idea is rooted in public affairs. When devised by a university alum more than 100 years ago, the term “Wisconsin Idea” referred to a particular approach to public affairs that involved the use of impartial experts to help design and administer state government for the common good. The Wisconsin Idea emphasized egalitarian and democratic ideals. Wisconsin was known across the country for its innovative laws and programs that sought to improve its residents’ lives. The state served as a testing ground for public policies that the federal government and other states later adopted, including primary elections, referenda, railroad and insurance commissions, income taxes, workers compensation, tax reform, and utility regulation.

Today, more than ever, the La Follette School exemplifies the Wisconsin Idea through a multidisciplinary emphasis on service and scholarship that allows the school to take on problems of public policy and governance. The school's faculty, students, and staff practice the Wisconsin Idea across the state and around the world through research, teaching, and outreach on issues that include the design and management of social welfare programs, international currency and trade, analysis of the effects of welfare reform, health-care reform and determinants of health, environmental policy, public management and finance, Social Security, and science and technology.

News about the La Follette School's Practice of the Wisconsin Idea