Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Friday, September 2, 2016

Under sunny skies, 100+ celebrate new academic year

Under sunny skies, 100+ celebrate new academic year

Mother Nature saved some of the summer’s best weather for the La Follette School’s annual Hill Fest celebration. Atop Observatory Hill and under blue skies, more than 120 students, alumni, friends, faculty, and staff marked the start of the 2016–17 academic year with a picnic dinner and enthusiastic conversations.

Professor Don Moynihan, the school’s new director, and Brian Bell (MPA ’10) greeted attendees, including many of the 57 first-year students as well as Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, who has taught graduate seminars at the La Follette School.

In his remarks, Bell talked about his recent job interview for administrator of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. When asked if he considered it a disadvantage that he didn’t have a law degree like other candidates, Bell said he replied, “I have the advantage of a public policy and public management degree from the La Follette School.”

Bell, who has served with the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, began his duties as the Ethics Commission’s first administrator on July 25.

Earlier in the day, first-year students in the master of public affairs (MPA) and master of international public affairs (MIPA) participated in a half-day orientation followed by lunch and a campus tour. Moynihan welcomed the students, and Associate Director Hilary Shager provided a curriculum and career-planning overview.

In addition, La Follette School faculty members Greg Nemet, Emilia Tjernstrom, and Rourke O’Brien introduced themselves and shared a bit of advice. “Take advantage of the large and small at UW-Madison,” Nemet said. “There’s so much available here; look outside your program area.”

Tjernstrom encouraged students to embrace statistics and focus on their learning rather than their grades, which she acknowledged may be difficult for some of them. O’Brien also emphasized the focus on learning and stressed the importance of writing as a critical skill for MPA and MIPA students.

Five current students, including La Follette School Student Association (LSSA) President Chris Stassel, also spoke with the incoming class as did the following representatives from several other student organizations and the Master of Public Health program: