Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs

UW–Madison Law School

  • Internship Location: Madison, WI
  • Organization Type: Higher education
  • Policy area: International law
  • Primary Skills Used/Developed: data collection and analysis, memo writing

During the 2016-2017 school year, I worked as a research assistant for associate professor of law Alexandra Huneeus researching the influence of international law in peace processes in Latin America. My research occurred during a very active time in the Colombian peace process. Early in the year, the plebiscite narrowly rejected the peace accord between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in late 2016, and later the Colombian Congress approved a modified peace agreement.

Although the FARC and Colombian government have held several failed negotiations, the most recent peace accord is currently in the implementation phase thanks in part to the influence of the international community. The progress that occurred during my time on the project constantly highlighted the relevance of studying the influence of international law in Colombia.

My work included analyzing Colombian laws, peace accords, international law, and political and social updates relevant to our work. From my analysis of Colombian laws, I created an interactive table to cross-reference peace accords, which connected legal standards to the original text. In addition, I drafted memos about political updates on the peace process, specifically when the Colombian Constitutional Court ruled on the constitutionality of the modified peace accord, failed plebiscite, and arguments for why the original plebiscite failed.

University of Wisconsin–Madison - Computational Nuclear Engineering Research Group (CNERG)

  • Internship Location: Madison, WI
  • Organization Type: Academic Research
  • Policy Area: Nonproliferation policy, security policy, Middle East, conflict
  • Primary Skills Utilized/Developed: quantitative data collection and analysis, model building, qualitative data collection and analysis

I worked at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Computational Nuclear Engineering Research Group (CNERG) for three semesters as a research and nuclear modeling assistant. In my time with the group, I had three major tasks.

The first was to research and design a model of Iran’s nuclear fuel cycle as it would be under the constraints of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or “Iran Deal.” This model tracks nuclear materials like uranium from when they are first mined to their storage after use in a nuclear reactor.

My second major task was to research uranium enrichment by gas centrifuge. This is the process Iran and other countries use to make uranium usable in either power plants or nuclear weapons. There isn’t a lot of unclassified literature on this technology, so I was asked to write a primer on centrifuge enrichment for future CNERG work and possible publication. My research on this primer informed the parameters used in our model of Iran’s fuel cycle.

My final major task was to assist other researchers in modeling proliferation scenarios. This model used inputs like military GDP, scientific network and conflict to try to predict the types of countries that would attempt to develop nuclear weapons. My contributions to this model were primarily related to scoring conflict and historical scenarios in the Middle East and the former Soviet Union.

City of Madison Finance Department

  • Internship Location: Madison, WI
  • Organization Type: Local government
  • Policy Area: Budgeting, finance, performance management, data analysis
  • Primary Skills Utilized/Developed: Data analysis, organization, program evaluation & management

Working for the City of Madison finance department has provided me with a fantastic look at the “other side” of local government. My previous job was working in the City Manager’s Office for the city of Iowa City. Though I was involved in some level of finances there, working with the production of financial documents has provided me with a unique understanding of both sides of local management and operations.

My internship duties were extremely variable. One week I input line items into the 2017 operating budget, and the next I had conversations with Microsoft about the feasibility of implementing new data visualization software for department heads. Honestly, this was my favorite part about the work; I was constantly exposed to a wide range of programs, departments, and coworkers. Luckily for me, I am able to stick around for another year!

To garner an understanding of how the finance office operates, I think it would be extremely valuable to experience another budget cycle. In its nature, government tends to move very slowly; this is especially true when anything costs money because it often needs to be budgeted for. Now that many of the projects have progressed and improved, I can work on the implementation phase. Most specifically, the open data project, which provides a new level of transparency to government, will really begin taking effect in 2017-2018.

City of Middleton

  • Internship Location: Middleton, WI
  • Organization Type: Local Government
  • Primary Skills Utilized/Developed: public management, data collection and analysis, networking

Working for the City of Middleton has been a condensed course in perhaps every aspect of local, municipal city management. I had responsibilities I did not expect, especially as an intern. I met and spoke with leadership from every municipal department to compile data for annual reports. I researched the economic impact of public, urban green spaces. I was included in tax-increment-finance meetings, and I observed collective bargaining negotiations. The city administrator and city staff did everything possible to include me in any aspect of local government that interested me.

Working with the city staff in Middleton also taught me that virtually no decisions are made in a vacuum. Even within local government, the common council, mayor, city administrator, city staff, and residents all work together to develop policy that best serves the public good. As an intern, I was included in every meeting during my scheduled time here. I viewed first-hand the economic impact of a properly utilized tax-increment-finance district. The highlight of this internship was the weekly meetings with the city administrator, city staff, outside consultants, and occasionally private developers to discuss tax-increment-finance districts and their impact on redevelopment within the city.

Additionally, I had the opportunity to meet with department leadership, the city administrator of Middleton (as well as surrounding municipalities), and city staff members from all departments to seek advice and discuss career trajectories. The city administrator was exceptionally helpful with providing meaningful, significant experiences as well as thoughtful guidance and advice.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

  • Internship Location: Washington, DC
  • Organization Type: Nonprofit
  • Policy Area: Science policy
  • Primary Skills Utilized/Developed: Report writing, presenting, gauging stakeholder interests, networking

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide society with unbiased information and recommendations about science and technology. Through contracts with federal agencies, under congressional mandates, or with private foundations, NASEM invites a broad array of stakeholders to discuss issues in science and technology, producing book-length reports that are then frequently, hopefully, though not necessarily, translated into public policy.

During my time at NASEM, I worked on a project about the public health impacts of electronic cigarettes, under the sponsorship of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These are largely unregulated products, and the project was focused on understanding what electronic cigarettes mean for public health, for potential lives saved through harm reduction, and for overall disease burden. Particularly interesting was thinking about how, once the evidence has been compiled, the way messages are packaged to policymakers and to the public is vital to see translation of evidence into practices.

In addition to the work on the electronic cigarette project, this fellowship was generally a fantastic learning opportunity. We were encouraged to step outside of the building, to meet whomever we wanted in the city, to attend congressional hearings, and to take part in science policy events throughout the city. The networking experience through this fellowship was unparalleled.

Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice

  • Internship Location: Madison, WI
  • Organization Type: Nonprofit
  • Policy Area: Social welfare policy, health policy
  • Primary Skills Utilized/Developed: Nonprofit management, database administration, networking

Through my internship with Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in social policy at the state, local, and federal levels. As the sole intern in a small, nonprofit organization, I was able to accompany the president to a wide variety of events and was able to feel as though my contributions mattered significantly.

Because Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice is a member organization and convener of multiple advocacy coalitions, I was able to network with social and economic justice advocacy organizations from across the state. Each Tuesday, I attended the coordinating council meetings for the Wisconsin Health Matters coalition, a “grass-tops” organization bringing together health policy advocacy organizations to coordinate strategy and disseminate information. Through the Dignity at Work Coalition convened by Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice, I was able to attend the press conference introduction and lobby on behalf of the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act in the state Legislature.

Some of the most meaningful skills I gained as a part of this internship were an increased comfort with political advocacy and an intimate familiarity with the workings of Wisconsin state government. Helping facilitate advocacy workshops to area congregations and accompanying the president to lobby and testify at the Capitol demystified the advocacy process and gave me the confidence to lobby on my own in the future. This position also required me to complete some small administrative tasks, such as managing membership databases and writing social media posts.

Education Analytics

  • Internship Location: Madison, Wisconsin
  • Organization Type: Nonprofit
  • Primary Skills Utilized/Developed: Grant writing, research

I had the opportunity to intern at Education Analytics (EA), a nonprofit organization founded by University of Wisconsin–Madison Professor Robert Meyer. The organization uses data analytics to help school districts, regional offices of education, nonprofits, and policymakers identify ways to improve public education systems. EA works with organizations across the country on projects ranging from student growth metrics to assessment development.

Most state and local education agency budgets are limited. Thus, a critical part of EA’s work is to help school districts obtain the funding needed for the services it provides. Among my chief tasks was supporting the policy team in drafting, revising, and submitting proposals for grants from the federal government or philanthropic foundations on behalf of partnering school districts and educational organizations.

I was also a member of a team devoted to Social Emotional Learning (SEL) research, a topic of rapidly growing interest in education policy. Growing consensus on the importance of non-cognitive skills as well as recent changes to federal education policy are inducing educational organizations to incorporate SEL into their curricula and school accountability systems. Organizations like EA are using data analytics to inform and guide this process.

From navigating the complexities of education funding to observing how changes to federal education policy are taken up and implemented by school districts, administrators, and teachers, working at EA provided me with a window into real-time education policy issues.