Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs

BASIX, India

As a summer intern for BASIX, a Hyderabad-based microfinance and livelihood promotion institution, I examined the social and political dynamics of various models striving towards financial inclusion in India. I analyzed quantitative data, and spoke with India's top academics, financial regulators, policy makers, NGOs, bankers, investors, and microfinance customers in both urban and rural areas. For my final project, I produced a 17-minute multi-media documentary film highlighting the causes of India's recent microfinance crisis and the national and global implications of regulatory inaction. A Sinking Ship: Microfinance and The Andhra Pradesh Crisis provides viewers with an overview of microfinance, the development challenges that India continues to face, and the political dynamics that have facilitated the continuation of financial exclusion for millions of Indians.

In addition to producing the film, I also had the privilege of working one-on-one with Member of Parliament (MP), Prem Das Rai. During multiple meetings in his Delhi office, I worked alongside Mr. Rai and his staff to formulate a political strategy to sensitize other parliamentarians to the importance of the upcoming microfinance bill. At the request of Mr. Rai, I also wrote an opinion piece for Central Hall, a leading Indian Parliament news publication circulated exclusively to all 545 members of parliament, The Office of the Prime Minister, and Indian Embassies abroad. 

I also presented the film and policy recommendations at the Indian Central Bank's academic institution–the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research in Mumbai–, and at Sa-Dhan, India's largest microfinance advocacy organization, in Delhi.

Canticle Farm

During the summer of 2011, I interned at Canticle Farm, a non-profit organic farm in Allegany in western New York State. I am planning a career in sustainable agriculture, and this internship provided valuable exposure both to the techniques of farming and to non-profit management. The farm managers and president were patient and enthusiastic when explaining the farm's operations.

Because it does not use synthetic herbicides or pesticides, Canticle Farm's production methods are labor-intensive. Most of my time was devoted to studying and practicing sustainable growing methods. I learned a great deal about biological pest control, efficient use of land and water, and the value of crop diversity and rotation. The internship also exposed me to some of the challenges and pleasures of non-profit management, including volunteer training, outreach programs, and financial analysis. I also met like-minded people with whom I hope to collaborate in the future.

Most importantly, Canticle Farm clearly illustrated the contrast between outputs and outcomes that has been such a significant element of my education in the La Follette program. Far from being a simple vegetable production facility, the farm is deeply engaged in the educational, environmental and social welfare of the community. Canticle Farm produces far more than crops. As its Farm Manager remarked, the farm is “not just growing vegetables, we're growing farmers.” In my experience, it succeeded on both counts.

The Carter Center

I interned with The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The Carter Center is a non-governmental organization, founded by former President Carter in 1982, that operates peace and health programs in the United States and around the world. I interned with the Conflict Resolution Program and focused on South Sudan, which gained independence on July 9, 2011. I enjoyed having the unique opportunity to work with an organization engaging on a high level with a territory as it transitioned to independence. Operating within a continuously changing context was an exciting challenge.

I worked closely with program staff to formulate proposals, analyze and conceptualize conflict dynamics, write and edit drafts, meet with potential partners, and prepare initial designs for monitoring and evaluation. I researched a variety of organizational guidelines on monitoring and evaluation of peacebuilding programs and delivered an informational presentation to Carter Center staff. I also researched topics of concern to staff, writing reports and assembling resources.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

During the summer of 2011, I interned at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a Washington, DC nonpartisan fiscal policy think tank focused on programs affecting low- and moderate-income Americans.  My internship was located within the State Fiscal Policy department which is a division of CBPP dedicated to the states that also coordinates the State Fiscal Analysis Initiative (SFAI) network.  The SFAI network is composed of 42 state offices that focus on state budget and tax analysis. 

My time at CBPP included many great learning experiences like analysis of budget documents from a number of different states and verification of state income tax formulas using an excel macro.  I was also tasked with monitoring the status of state budget enactments before the June 30 deadline in addition to tracking issues of interest for State Fiscal Policy staff.

I was able to attend several conferences and briefings during my time in Washington, DC and was treated essentially like any other member of the staff.  I worked closely with several staff members on different projects, including one project focused on state education funding.  Research for this project included gathering background literature on education finance reform and tracking down education funding numbers from several different states going back to fiscal year 2008. 

This internship allowed me to experience what budget analysis might be like if I chose to follow a career path that included working for a think tank or an advocacy group.

Child Health Advocacy Center, American Family Children’s Hospital

Since January, I have worked as a Special Project Assistant in the Child Health Advocacy Center, a department of American Family Children’s Hospital. Advocacy departments are quite common in health care systems, particularly children’s hospitals, and at American Family Children’s Hospital, the Advocacy Center’s core mission revolves around child safety, obesity prevention, oral health, and literacy. In addition, the Advocacy Center partners with community organizations, such as the Ronald McDonald Foundation, to maximize its effectiveness as an advocacy organization. Through this experience, I have been exposed to a variety of issues pertinent to health care systems in general and children’s hospitals in particular. I interacted with a wide variety of individuals from departments including administration, government relations, public affairs, and marketing. Specifically, though, my core tasks involved assisting in the continued development of the Advocacy Center, which was established in November of 2010 as a stand-alone department within the children’s hospital. My first task as a member of the department was to develop a “legislative toolkit” that informs interested individuals about the legislative process and how to best affect policy change for the betterment of children’s health in Wisconsin. This task alone required me to interact with leadership in Government Relations, the Office of Legal Counsel, E-Health Solutions (the “electronic arm” of the health system), and community advocates. In addition, I worked on a project in conjunction with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to develop a “State of Wisconsin’s Children” report, which provides a brief overview of issues pertinent to children’s health and is to be published later this year.

Department of State at the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras

My internship placement for the summer of 2011 was with the Department of State at the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.  The internship was a ten-week placement, predominantly in the General Service Office.  My main responsibilities included receiving and processing purchase requests from all of the different departments and other U.S. government agencies within the embassy.  This included getting exact specifications from the requestors, and then working with both local Honduran and U.S. vendors to procure the items requested.  This often required site visits to the vendors available, and negotiation of terms and compensation in Spanish, and then translating all official agreements into English for embassy records. 

Additionally, I was able to rotate to the Economic, Political and Consular sections of the embassy in order to assist in other ongoing projects, as well as gain a better understanding of the work of the embassy and how the different sections work together to carry out the diplomatic mission of the U.S. government in Honduras. My work in the Political and Economic sections included opportunities to research a wide range of issues through media reports and interviews with both Honduran citizens and Honduran governmental officials.  I used the information gained from this research to write diplomatic cables (of Wiki-leak fame) to relevant policy makers in Washington D.C. about how each issue was important to the U.S. diplomatic mission and interests.  Specific issues on which I wrote cables included the commitment of the Honduran government to human rights issues facing the 9 indigenous people groups in Honduras, and the forthcoming economic impacts of a new Security Tax affecting businesses and individuals of all income levels. 
This internship provided me with a comprehensive look at the work of U.S. embassies abroad, and also the life of a Foreign Service officer.  I would highly recommend this type of internship for anyone who would consider a career with the State Department.

Forward Community Investments

FCI is a nonprofit community development financial institution that provides lending and advisory services to nonprofits throughout the state of Wisconsin that serve low to moderate income families and individuals. 

I began working as the Program Coordinator of Advisory Services at FCI in April 2010 prior to enrollment at La Follette this past fall.  My primary duties during my first summer and throughout the 2010-2011 school year were centered on developing and executing the plans to establish a formal advisory services line of business using a grant FCI received to provide capacity building services to nonprofits.  These activities included creating workshops and webinars to build awareness and understand of how an organization can improve its service delivery through a capacity assessment and action planning process.  Concurrent with this grant-based work, I conducted a survey and interviews of Wisconsin nonprofits to analyze the financial health and future outlook of nonprofits as well as the activities taken to improve their current situation. 

This summer I have spent about half my time providing one-on-one advisory services, including business model evaluation and financial analysis of client nonprofits.  With my remaining time, I have conducted a repeat of the Wisconsin nonprofit survey with a greater focus on the capacity building and collaboration opportunities that nonprofits undertake and how stakeholders such as community foundations, government agencies, and nonprofit Boards of Directors can help strengthen the nonprofit community.

Working at FCI has been an amazing experience; it has combined my interests in management and organizational development with community building.  I have really enjoyed the research and planning involved my work.  I have been given opportunities to develop and work both independently and in coordination with FCI’s excellent staff of experienced financial professionals on a variety of strategic and operational projects.

Fundacion Ethos

Fundacion Ethos is an independent think-tank located in Mexico City, Mexico. At the foundation I had a summer internship within the Independent Poverty Observatory (IPO) department. The IPO focuses on researching, analysing, and discussing poverty in Latin America. I worked closely with IPO researchers on a number of projects.

For the first project, I worked with the Ethos Poverty Index, a multidimensional measurement of poverty in Latin America. I edited the English translation of the Index, coordinated with the graphic designer for publication of the English version, and developed a presentation of the Index in English and Spanish. I also researched possible funding sources for the release of the Index in other Latin American countries and assisted with hosting a launch event with guests from local media, international organizations, and foundations. I evaluated media impact of the event, rounding up and assigning monetary values to press coverage. After the
release of the Index, I worked on a policy recommendation for the government of Sinola, a northwestern Mexican state. We made recommendations on how the state government could finance welfare spending, using the United States and other countries that collect state taxes as case studies. For this project, I researched tax policy in the U.S., investigating strategies to improve tax compliance and enforcement. This internship gave me valuable experience in policy research as well as a deeper understanding of many issues facing development workers in Latin America.

Climate Focus

From June 13th through August 12th, I interned with Climate Focus in Washington, DC.  Climate Focus is an advisory company that consults on the development of projects and policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  They work with companies, governments, development banks, non-governmental and non-profit organizations to reduce emissions in the energy, industry, agriculture and forestry sectors.  As an Intern, my work consisted primarily of legal analysis: regarding the viability of a proposed REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) project between a forest-dependent community and a non-profit organization; to study the impact of land-use, forestry and agriculture laws and policies on forest conservation, and to identify obligations and support for REDD projects in international human rights and environmental treaties.  In addition, I translated and updated Powerpoint presentations for workshops and proofread reports for delivery to clients and Climate Focus informational reports.

The position was incredibly interesting, as it exposed me to the most pressing legal issues in the design and implementation of REDD projects. It helped me to understand how the design of laws and policies can create perverse incentives, such as increasing the destruction of rainforests. In addition, the position allowed me to utilize my foreign language abilities in a professional manner, as I analyzed legislation written in Spanish and Portuguese and wrote portions of reports in Spanish.  Moreover, as addressed in my final internship report, I analyzed how financial benefits gained from reducing greenhouse gas emissions can be equitably and transparently shared among members of forest-dependent communities.

Legislative Internship with Representative Fred Clark

This past spring I interned in the office of Representative Fred Clark. This internship began shortly before the protests in response to the Budget Repair Bill began and ended with the Representative’s announcement that he would be running for senate as in one of the recall elections. Needless to say, our intern team had a unique experience. Though initially our intern team anticipated doing many policy analyses for the Representative, the sheer amount of constituent concern and interest in the current legislation took center stage. As a result, the primary duty of this internship was to help Representative Fred Clark’s staff manage constituent contacts, whether they required an informative letter, an explanation of a vote, policy analysis or bill drafting. Much of our time was spent researching bill proposals and reaching out to state agencies for further information and writing up detailed responses.   This provided a great opportunity to connect with many Wisconsinites and hear a variety of points of view while learning a vast amount about Wisconsin legislation in a short period of time.

Additional duties included policy analyses and bill proposals on behalf of constituents. I had the opportunity to work on one of each, which allowed for further investigation of specific issues in comparison to existing legislation, as well as an opportunity to build a deeper relationship with the team of constituents, staffers and state employees working to draft the bill together. This was one of the most rewarding aspects of the internship.

Lastly, our team had the pleasure of working in an office during am exciting time of transition. Now, we all have the opportunity to volunteer in a separate capacity to work on the campaign. The staffers who supervised us were really intelligent, friendly and good at their jobs. With their guidance, I learned much about the legislative process in four short months.

Michael Fields Agriculture Institute

Interning with the Michael Fields Agriculture Institute (MFAI) excited me because it is one of the few opportunities available to put my interest in sustainable agriculture and local food systems into practical policy use by supporting the sustainable agriculture movement.  MFAI began its policy internship program in 2003 as a way “to draw exciting, committed, informed activists into the work of creating and advancing public policies that support sustainable agriculture” (email to author, October 24, 2010). 

Throughout the internship I gained experience learning from an expert, Margaret Krome, a well-known and reputable leader in the national sustainable agriculture advocacy field.  I spent time learning firsthand about the Food and Farm Bill re-authorization and appropriations process, solidifying the theoretical framework explored during Professor Witte’s Policymaking Process course.  The internship provided me with opportunities to understand the political landscape influencing sustainable agriculture policy on both the state and national level.  Ultimately, the internship cultivated my interest and knowledge, preparing me to become a leader and advocate in sustainable agriculture upon completing my La Follette M.P.A. 

National Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education, Policy Assistant

During the spring of 2011, I served as a Policy Assistant for the National Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education (CFIRE). Working on a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, I researched transportation issues that will arise from the aging of the baby boomer population. My research encompassed four tasks. First, I assessed current specialized and public transit practices in the state of Wisconsin and identified emerging and persistent issues. Second, I helped conduct demographic analysis to ascertain geographic problem areas. Third, I coordinated the distribution of 20,000 surveys and helped host several focus groups to gauge the transportation habits and needs of older residents. Finally, I reviewed international and national best practices to formulate recommendations for policy improvements. If implemented, these recommendations will improve the efficiency and quality of senior-focused transportation programs in Wisconsin.

Observer Research Foundation, Delhi, India

I was an intern at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in Delhi, India. ORF is a private think-tank that was founded in the early-1990s as an independent forum to examine the critical problems facing the country and to help develop coherent policy responses in a rapidly changing global environment. Today, it continues to influence all areas of public policy in India, especially in India's foreign policy objectives.

My research project at ORF focused on China's current oil diversification strategy. China is heavily dependent on oil that is shipped through the Hormuz Strait and the Malacca Strait. China has been working toward diversifying its energy sources and building a network of pipelines to avoid these strategic chokepoints on its maritime trade routes. In my breakdown of this strategy, I provided cost-benefit analysis of China’s various methods and the geopolitical implications of the steps they have taken. This research culminated in a paper that I am in the process of publishing, along with Vivan Sharan, entitled, “Oil Supply Chokepoints in the Asia Pacific – China’s Strategic Dilemmas.”

The other valuable aspect on interning at ORF is the opportunity to participate in their many conferences and meetings. Regular meetings are held where various research projects are presented and then discussed among the research fellows at ORF. They also host regular conferences where ambassadors, government officials, organizational leaders and others come and present on various topics of current interest and answer questions. These meetings and conferences have provided me with unique opportunities to learn from those who are directly involved in a wide range of issues and to meet people from all over the world who have many different ideas and perspectives to share.

Public Policy Forum

My summer internship at the Public Policy Forum allowed me to put to immediate use the technical skills and substantive knowledge I gained at La Follette during my first year. The Public Policy Forum is a nonpartisan policy research organization that performs analysis and tracks government performance on issues affecting southeast Wisconsin.

As the full-time graduate summer intern, my primary responsibility was to collect and analyze trend data regarding the performance, finances, and enrollment of 50 public school districts in southeast Wisconsin, and to draft written findings for the Forum’s annual schooling report. The Forum gave me broad discretion to expand the scope of this year’s report to include an investigation of several sweeping changes in the state’s education policy context. I had the opportunity to perform policy research and analysis regarding the following: 1) the fiscal impact of economic indicators and the 2011-2013 state budget on local school districts; 2) the potential impact of a broad range of proposed educational accountability reforms being considered by a statewide task force; and 3) the implications for a new statistical method for measuring educational achievement: value-added growth analysis. Throughout the project, I worked with the Forum staff to elicit feedback from district superintendents and educational researchers, who provided peer review for the report’s findings. As a result of my work to deepen and expand the analytical scope of the report, the Forum decided to present it to their membership of business and municipal leaders for their “Policy in a Pub” series, a program designed to stimulate public discussion of salient policy issues in the region.

Although the schooling report was my principal focus, I participated in Forum activities as a member of the research staff. During the Forum’s annual meeting with its full membership as well as during weekly staff meetings, I gained an insider’s perspective on how the organization approaches its various roles as policy researcher, budget analyst, community convener, and government watchdog. I took advantage of the opportunity to participate in the early stages of the Forum’s work facilitating intergovernmental cooperation among municipalities in Milwaukee County. This experience allowed me to conduct research and gain insight on how local municipal leaders interact to pursue shared service agreements, functional consolidations, and other cooperative paths toward efficiency.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service

This summer I interned with the Forest Service’s policy analysis staff, which operates within the agency’s Research and Development branch. Policy analysis team members provide analysis to assist agency decision-makers.  Their duties include preparing short issue briefs and longer reports and even speechwriting.

At the start of my internship, I was given an opportunity to familiarize myself with the longer-term projects that the policy staff has been charged with exploring and to complete selected projects or propose related assignments. I was able to propose and complete a paper summarizing the potential for wind, solar, and geothermal development on Forest Service lands and challenges to this development.  I also created an overview of several large workforce initiatives the agency is managing. I enjoyed engaging in the review process that the policy analysis staff applies to each product.

In addition to writing, I served as a reviewer for documents written by other policy analysis staff members. This provided an opportunity to learn about the issues that others were working on and to practice editing for concision and clarity. 

The staff also values giving interns the “Washington” experience. We met with many different organizations in the city and were given opportunities to meet with leaders up to the top of the Forest Service.  This was a great way to take a look at many different workplaces and also discover opportunities at the Forest Service.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Budget and Policy Analysis Intern

I was given the responsibility of assessing the fiscal status of the Food Service and Recreational Licensing program for Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health—Department of Health Services for the state of Wisconsin. The program was established to reduce exposure to environmental and safety hazards in public lodging and recreational areas. Revenues for the program are generated from fees charged to establishments inspected, and while they used to be adequate in covering program costs, they have not been reassessed or increased in over 3 years. With costs continuing to rise annually, the FSRL program has developed a significant deficit that continues to grow each year.

I began the project by looking at the cost side of the program. To get a multiple year analysis I started in FY 2008 and analyzed through mid FY 2011 (December 2010). Using the Department of Health Service’s Fiscal Management System (FMS) I pulled queries for each month, by regional office. I used expenditure code definitions to decode, and allocate each transaction of the query to a general budget line based on where it had been spent. At the end, each regional office in the state of Wisconsin had a spreadsheet for fiscal year 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011, divided down by afore mentioned budget lines. Combining spreadsheets, I had a fiscal report on each RO for each fiscal year for the entirety of account 124. In addition, I analyzed the cost of each sanitarian (and an average approximate sanitarian cost) to the individual regional offices, and how much the support staff cost per sanitarian by office (seen in attached spreadsheets). Results indicated that most budget categories saw significant percent increases in cost from 2008 to 2009 and 2009 to 2010. This data will be used to indicate ways in which the program can best cut costs or generate revenue to balance the budget.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

This semester, I interned with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Although I worked with the School Management Services Team, most of my internship was spent supporting the Educator Effectiveness Design Team.  The Design Team was formed by the State Superintendent and tasked with developing a new teacher evaluation system for Wisconsin.  As an intern, I researched other evaluation systems throughout the country.  I then selected four systems for an in-depth analysis, focusing on the aspects about which the Design Team was most curious.  I shared my research with the Design Team at their meetings as well as with DPI leadership at a formal presentation.

Overall, I am thankful that I had the opportunity to work with the School Management Services Team as well as the Design Team. I was able to see how multiple stakeholders, who are passionate about education, can work together to create a system to the benefit of students.  I increased my understanding of what it takes to create an effective teacher evaluation system as well as the new initiatives that focus on improving teacher quality.  I also greatly enjoyed working with the staff at DPI. This experience has given me a clearer picture as to what I am passionate about and what opportunities I want to pursue in the future.

Wisconsin Homeland Security Council

As an intern with the Wisconsin Homeland Security Council, I am witnessing the direct formulation of disaster management policy. Comprised of thirteen members, the Council meets quarterly in either Madison or Milwaukee. In addition to advising the governor on matters pertaining to homeland security, the Council coordinates local and state response efforts if natural or terrorist-related emergencies arise. My internship involves a variety of administrative and research-based tasks.  My first day on the job allowed me to assist with the Council’s spring meeting.  I am responsible for taking minutes, coordinating the logistical aspects of each meeting, and communicating daily with Council members and state and federal agency representatives.  This summer, I have been compiling the 2011 Annual Report on Homeland Security.  My supervisor frequently allows me to research and carry out responses to constituents who have contacted the Department of Military Affairs with questions related to personal safety or security.  I have also been involved in the creation of events and awareness campaigns for the annual National Preparedness Month in September.  This includes participating in brainstorming sessions, contacting statewide clubs, festivals and county managers, organizing speaking events, and assisting the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator as he seeks to widely disseminate information on how citizens can better prepare themselves for emergencies.

This internship has been a fantastic experience in researching, networking, and honing communication skills in a fast-paced, professional environment.  I am learning a great deal about the intricacies of working within a state agency and its corresponding bureaucratic structure.  Everyone in this workplace is wholeheartedly dedicated to perpetuating good policy that will consistently protect the citizens of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin State Assembly

My internship with Representative Fred Clark was likely atypical of internships at the State Capitol in previous semesters. Special Sessions Senate Bill 11 (SSSB11), or the “Budget Repair Bill,” was proposed weeks after I started the internship. Shortly thereafter, the Capitol became inundated---inside and out---with hundreds of protesters every day for nearly a month. As a result, I spent a lot of time on constituent response to SSSB11 in various forms of communication: phone calls, in-person office visits, e-mail, and paper mail. Besides responding to questions and comments about the Budget Repair Bill, I also answered questions about other pieces of legislation on a wide variety of subjects (such as rooftop access safety laws, wind turbine regulations, and legislative partisanship). In most cases, in order to thoroughly answer their questions, thorough research about the policy topic was required. I probably learned the most from the internship by doing this research, which included combing through legislation, calling subject matter experts and chatting with other staff at the Capitol. One final task I did at the Capitol that was exciting for me was drafting a Resolution that was passed in the State Legislature. It wasn’t a major piece of legislation, but it was very rewarding to see the words I wrote become part of Wisconsin State history.

World Council of Credit Unions

Over the summer, for more than three months, I had the opportunity to intern with the Project Development Department at the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), with headquarters located in Madison. WOCCU is an international trade association and development agency for credit unions that has been working since 1971 promoting the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world.

My responsibility as an intern included: i) working with a new recruitment database identifying consultants’ critical skills and areas of expertise relevant for future project opportunities; ii) providing input and feedback on database functionality; iii) completing credit union’s research and inputting contact information into an internal database; iv) completing research for the development of new proposals or on donor priorities on topics such as microfinance, food security, banking, and agricultural development; and v) supporting the Project Development Manager with the edition of documents and Spanish-English/English-Spanish translations.
I found the Project Development Internship a great opportunity to learn about an international institution that works for developing countries, its operations, as well as the assistance it provides to credit unions. I also had the opportunity to be more familiar with microfinance and rural development programs. Finally, I found in WOCCU a great environment to work in, with extraordinary people that make WOCCU’s mission possible. It was definitely an enriching experience totally aligned with my interests.