Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Thursday, August 18, 2016

Joe Fontaine (MPA '08)

Joe Fontaine (MPA '08) Joe Fontaine (MPA '08)

Job title
Focus on Energy Performance Manager

Public Service Commission of Wisconsin

How have your La Follette School courses and/or experiences contributed to meeting your career goals?
The analytical skills La Follette helped me develop – economic, statistical, and managerial – have been essential tools for both my previous job as a program evaluator at the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau and in my current role overseeing evaluation of Focus on Energy’s energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.

What was less obvious to me while at La Follette – but might be more important to my career – is the emphasis on clear and effective communication. Learning to write clearly and concisely, presenting in every class, and meeting the real-world needs of the clients for our capstone projects have helped me learn how to ensure my technical skills have a real-world effect.

A well-performed analysis is far more valuable and impactful when I can make a persuasive case for what it means and how it can be applied to change policies and programs. That is what has enabled me to feel like my experiences at LAB and Focus on Energy have made a difference. La Follette did a great job of addressing both sides of the coin.

Why the La Follette School?
I grew up in Wisconsin, and I wanted to stay here for my career in public service. The small class size was also very appealing. I received my undergraduate degree from a small liberal arts college (Ripon College) and very much liked both the educational benefit and the feeling of community that comes from small class sizes and low teacher-to-student ratios. La Follette’s national reputation as a high-quality school also helped.

If any La Follette School alumni and/or friends have helped you with your career path or course work, who was it and how did he or she mentor you?
My decision to go to La Follette was informed by my experience working for the Wisconsin Sentencing Commission and Office of Justice Assistance (OJA) during my undergraduate years. I got the job through a connection between one of my college professors and a La Follette alumnus who worked for the Commission and then OJA – Jim Pingel (1993). Despite my limited experience, Jim and his colleagues trusted me with a lot of responsibility and helped me develop the interests and skills that led me to La Follette.

Volunteer activities
I have served on the city of Monona’s Public Safety Commission for more than three years and was recently appointed to the Police and Fire Commission.