Contributions from alumni and friends of the La Follette School are helping two students focus their public affairs careers on energy analysis and health-care management.
While Shaun Hernandez was an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, he served as administrator of the student government’s judiciary committee. He also interned with an aide to a member of the Wisconsin Assembly. These experiences prompted Hernandez to rethink going on to medical school, an assumption he’d held since about the eighth grade.
After graduating in December 2008 into one of the worst job markets in decades, Hernandez looked for work then started interning with the same aide, who had since joined the staff of a state senator. “This experience revitalized my interest in government and made me think that a career in the public sector would be a possibility,” Hernandez says. As Hernandez explored the La Follette School’s master of public affairs degree program, he realized it would provide a perfect mix of experiences and training. “I felt that the core curriculum, emphasizing competency in both management and quantitative analysis, would equip me well for an array of career opportunities upon graduation,” he says.
He found his niche in health-care management and policy. As a special project assistant with American Family Children’s Hospital, part of UW Health, he developed the strategic vision and operational framework for the new Child Health Advocacy Center, advised the program director about operational, human resource and budgetary decision-making, researched programs to establish benchmarks and determine program content, and led projects that supported the center’s goals and vision.
Donations to the La Follette School provided scholarship funds for Hernandez’s second year. “Without the scholarship, I would have had to acquire a project assistantship for my second year, which would have meant that I would have to end my employment with the hospital,” he says. “Since I’m doing now exactly what I would like to do long-term, having my tuition paid and being able to keep working was the best possible outcome for me.”
Ed Cubero spent five years as a financial analyst before turning his attention to energy policy and analysis. He graduated from New York University in 2004, worked in insurance for a year, then joined Moody’s Investors Service. “I happened to work at Moody’s during an interesting time as I was able to see the changes in the performance of individual companies through the economic cycle,” says Cubero, who is pursuing a master of public affairs, plus a certificate in energy analysis and policy.
For Moody’s, Cubero analyzed a portfolio of small, private firms across a range of industries. “The volatile energy costs over the past few years had a significant impact on the earnings of some companies,” he says. “This led to my interest in energy policy.”
Cubero’s observations got him thinking about public affairs. “I always knew graduate school was on the horizon, and I became particularly interested in renewable energy and the development of long-term, energy solutions,” he says. Cubero believes that his experience in financial analysis can help in the energy policy field, particularly in evaluating the costs of new energy investments. Though environmental policy is important, “it must be done in a cost-effective manner so it does not hurt economic growth,” he says.
Contributions helped to make it possible for Cubero to pursue his graduate studies. “The award from the Clara Penniman fund has made my move from New York City to Madison much easier and is allowing me to focus on my coursework,” Cubero says. “I appreciate the generosity of Dr. Penniman in establishing the fund and of the alumni and friends who are sustaining it to help myself and other students achieve their career goals.”
This article appears in the spring 2012 La Follette Notes newsletter for alumni and friends.
— posted May 1, 2012