Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, December 14, 2015

La Follette In DC Provides Career Development Opportunities

La Follette In DC Provides Career Development Opportunities

On November 12th and 13th, 22 La Follette School students traveled to Washington, DC for a career development extravaganza that included visits to public and private sector organizations working on both domestic and international policy issues. This trip is the latest in a new series of School programming designed to help students explore public affairs internship and job opportunities in various cities, and network with La Follette alumni across the country.

The “La Follette in DC” agenda included stops at Grant Thornton LLP, the US Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Urban Institute, all of which have employed La Follette School alumni. At each stop, agency officials and La Follette alumni welcomed the students and answered their questions about getting internships and jobs in the nation's capital. The students got advice about moving to DC, work-life balance, tips on needed skills, and insights on policy issues. The event also included a networking reception involving dozens of DC area alumni and friends at Clyde's of Gallery Place.

"Our ability to implement such a valuable career development experience like La Follette in DC is a true testament to the dedicated alumni and friends network the La Follette School enjoys,” said Hilary Shager, La Follette School Associate Director who accompanied students on the trip, along with Student Services Coordinator Mary Treleven and Outreach Specialist Bridget Pirsch.

At Grant Thornton, students discussed consulting careers with senior partner Phil Kangas, recruiting associate Michele Krauss, and recent La Follette alums Kate Austin (MPA 2015) and Scott Wood (MPA 2015). At the CBO, alum Rob Stewart (MA 1995) and human resources specialist Angela Smart talked about the mission of the CBO and shared career advice with students.

Students joined DC-based alums for lunch and small group conversations, including Ulli Nischan (MIPA 2010), who works in the international food policy arena; Michael Rodriguez (MPA 2009), who works on cutting edge transportation policy; Katherine Sydor (MPA 2012), who works for the US Department of Education on higher education finance; and Amanda Wilmarth (MPA 2014), who works at the Export Import Bank of the United States. Drew McDermott, a second-year MPA student who sat at Sydor’s table, commented, “It was great to have the dedicated time to talk with an alum in a small group, learn more about her career path, and hear her recommendations.”

Alexis MacDonald (MPA 2008) gathered several La Follette alums to meet students at the GAO, making sure students heard a variety of perspectives. Around the conference table, students met with Jenny Grover (MA 1991), Joe Thompson (MPA 2003), Ben Emmel (MPA 2015), Travis Schwartz (MPA 2015), Michele Duren (MIPA 2015), and UW alum Kevin Remondini (MA 2007). In addition, they also heard from Eric Hudson (MPA 2004), Kate Amoroso (MPA 2007), and Kate Nast Jones (MPA 2008) in Chicago; and Hilary Murrish Benedict (MPA 2002) in Colorado via video conference.

Nick Lardinois, second-year MPA student said, "I thought the site visit to GAO was extremely valuable. It was useful to listen to a panel of past students talk about their work including the accompanying advantages and disadvantages. The individuals present were honest and open."

On the second morning of the program, students visited Millennium Challenge Corporation where they heard from Chris Maloney, Managing Director of Selection and Eligibility in the Department of Policy and Evaluation. “I really enjoyed visiting the GAO and the MCC. I enjoyed the personal touch of meeting La Follette alumni at the GAO and learning about an organization that I had otherwise ignored. The MCC aligned with what I can see myself going into as a career--I'm very interested in development work. Learning about the metrics MCC uses in evaluating whether a country is a good fit for aid was very interesting,” said first-year MIPA student Chris Stassel.

The two-day agenda ended with a visit to the Urban Institute. Students shared a working lunch with scholar Gene Steuerle, who earned a 1972 master's degree from the La Follette School precursor, the Center for the Study of Public Policy and Administration, before completing a Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In addition, students heard from Molly Collins Offner, Director for Policy at the American Hospital Association, Urban Institute president Sarah Wartell, researcher Martha Galvez, and director of external affairs, Amy Elsbree.

Karina Virrueta, a first year MPA student said, “I did not know anything about "think tanks" before visiting (Urban), and I was happy to have been given a reason to research them. Being interested in the connection between research and public policy, I felt it was extremely valuable to get the opportunity to learn about and visit a place that facilitates that connection. It was also helpful to know that there are different career options besides government that contribute to the public policy. It was inspiring!”

To defray the cost of the trip, the School was able to purchase plane tickets for the 22 students. "We are grateful to our incredible alumni for their dedication to the La Follette School and for the financial donations they give to our School to support current La Follette students. Helping students enhance their academic careers with this career development opportunity is the ultimate in ‘giving back’", says Director Susan Yackee.