Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, November 28, 2016

Matt van Buren (MPA '15)

Matt van Buren (MPA '15)

Job title
Stewardship Coordinator

Employer
Taos Land Trust

Hometown
Janesville, Wisconsin

Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degree in journalism, University of Missouri – Columbia, 2004

Why an MPA?
I spent about a decade after receiving my bachelor’s degree working in politics and journalism. After working on the periphery of public decision-making, I decided I wanted to become directly involved in crafting policy and advocating for important causes.

Why the La Follette School?
The faculty is impressive, the school’s reputation is sterling, and its small size allows for a lot of community-building and one-on-one contact with professors and teaching assistants.

How have your La Follette School courses and/or experiences contributed to meeting your career goals?
I learned a good deal about public management, strategic planning, and nonprofit leadership that are directly applicable to my current position. Policy analysis and program evaluation also taught me helpful lessons, as did courses on human resources and land use.

Most challenging experience at the La Follette School
Learning to apply statistical analysis to policy questions

Most rewarding experience at the La Follette School
Challenging myself and working with my classmates to overcome obstacles and solve problems together. The community was outstanding, and I made lifelong friends at La Follette.

Why would you recommend the La Follette School to a prospective student?
If you want to get into public service and make a difference, from the local to the international level, there is no better program. It is flexible enough to be tailored to individual interests but challenging at its core to ensure graduates are ready to work in any number of fields.

Volunteer activities
I work with a local nonprofit organization helping tutor students in English. I have worked with the high school yearbook class and with a nonprofit that takes in runaways and troubled youth. I am also helping a local adult education center with grant-writing so it can continue to provide free GED preparation to people in my community.

Mentors
Debby Meyer spoke with me on multiple occasions and corresponded with me about how to enter the nonprofit sector with a La Follette education. I did ultimately go in that direction, and her advice was very helpful.

Anything else?
I don’t think many La Follette grads have ended up in New Mexico, but I am putting my education to use on exciting land conservation, trails, and park-planning projects. I get to spend a good amount of time in the field, helping preserve Taos’ amazing landscape.