Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Michele Dickinson (MPA ’14)

Michele Dickinson, left, chats with fellow alumni at the Madison Reception on February 2, 2017. Michele Dickinson, left, chats with fellow alumni at the Madison Reception on February 2, 2017.

Job title
FoodShare Policy Section Chief

Employer
Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degrees in business administration and sociology, UW–Stevens Point, 2005

Why an MPA?
I decided to return to school and get my MPA because I was working fulltime at UW–Extension, and my job was being eliminated. It was difficult to find a job that was both challenging and fulfilling, which paid well, in Madison, so grad school seemed like a natural next step.

How have your La Follette School courses and/or experiences contributed to meeting your career goals?
When I came to La Follette, I was interested in pursuing a career with the state of Wisconsin or a nonprofit organization addressing poverty. I was specifically interested in working on policy related to BadgerCare or FoodShare. My La Follette degree has enabled me to do exactly that.

La Follette’s strong reputation among Wisconsin state agencies helped me easily find a job before graduation as a budget and policy analyst in the Department of Health Services’ Office of Policy Initiatives and Budget. There I worked on the Medicaid and FoodShare program administration budgets for the 2015-17 biennial budget. Taking the quantitative analysis coursework – both semesters of statistics and cost-benefit analysis – was key in helping me be prepared for state budget work immediately after graduation.

After a little more than a year in that role, I received a promotion to FoodShare policy section chief, where I now supervise a team of six program and policy analysts who work on all aspects of FoodShare and FoodShare Employment and Training (FSET) program policy.

Most challenging La Follette School experience
First-semester statistics.

Most rewarding La Follette School experience
I enjoyed the amount of hand-on experiences LaFollette provides. I was able to work with real clients, with real policy problems or questions. I still see these people occasionally around the capitol. It is a great opportunity to develop/grow your professional network.

Why would you recommend the La Follette School to a prospective student?
Strong quantitative analysis coursework, the opportunities for real-world projects with local clients, the strong networking that happens within the program, and the small class sizes.

Why the La Follette School?
La Follette was the only graduate program I applied to. My son was about to start high school and I had purchased a house a few years before applying. I wanted to continue working at UW–Extension as I worked toward my degree; therefore, La Follette made a lot of sense for me and my family.