Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs

City of Madison Parks Division

In the summer of 2013, I interned at the Park Division for the City of Madison.  I was the Volunteer Management Intern, and I worked very closely with the intern for Event Planning and the Recreation Services Coordinator, our supervisor. 

While working within the Parks Division, I was able to experience first-hand the day-to-day operations of city level public service.  With the events side of the Parks office being fairly new (within the last 5 years or so), there is a lot of work to be done by not a lot of staff.  This allowed the events intern and me to truly be involved in the creation and planning process—with a lot of autonomy— of events and volunteer projects. 

Part of my summer was spent working on the implementation of the “Adopt-A-Park” program.  This included writing website text, editing handbooks, and creating volunteer agreements.  The program will need to align with current volunteers in addition to hopefully integrating new ones.   

Bookending my summer with Parks were the two “Ride The Drive” events.  This event shuts down three to five miles of city streets to be used for the day by bikers, walkers, rollerbladers, etc.  The event in June was in Downtown Madison, while this year’s August event was held on the Westside.  150 to 200 volunteers were needed to make each event safe and successful.  Much of my time was spent communicating with volunteers, updating any information they would need during the day, and then coordinating them and any questions that arose during the event.

Imani Development Consultants Limited, Blantyre, Malawi

This year, I am participating in the Princeton in Africa Fellowship, sponsored by Princeton University.  Through this fellowship, I am interning with Imani Development Consultants Limited, an economic consulting firm in Blantyre, Malawi.  Imani works on economic growth and poverty reduction in Malawi through private sector development, providing specialized consulting services to policymakers, as well as the industrial, agricultural, and commercial sectors.

With Imani, I have been working on a number of projects aimed at private sector development.  In particular, one of our projects aims to improve the marketing of tea produced in Malawi so that smallholder tea farmers as well as tea estate farmers can move into higher-value tea products and thereby increase their incomes.  For this project, I have researched alternative markets for Malawian tea and have produced various promotional materials for unique Malawi tea varieties.

I have also been involved in the preparation of the project proposal to develop Malawi’s National Industrial Policy.  If awarded, Imani will work closely with government institutions in Malawi to formulate guiding economic policy to increase value-added industrial production in Malawi, and I will be able to observe and contribute at every step of the process, which is very exciting.

Through my internship, I am getting an in-depth look into the functioning of the development sector.  I am learning how economic development policy is created and am learning to understand the complexities of promoting private sector development in emerging countries.

Institute of Policy Analysis and Research-Rwanda (IPAR-Rwanda), Kigali, Rwanda

I spent the summer in Kigali, Rwanda carrying out an internship with the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research-Rwanda (IPAR-Rwanda). IPAR is a Rwandan think tank that carries out policy research and analysis to help inform and guide policy in Rwanda. While at IPAR I spent most of my time helping to analyze qualitative data gathered by IPAR on the state of sanitation in Kigali’s informal settlements. Through this work I was able to analyze the challenges facing Kigali’s informal settlements from the point of view of local policy makers, local residents, non-profits, and the private sector. I had no previous exposure to qualitative research methods, so I learned a great new set of analytical skills through this experience. While I am definitely still a quantitative analysis devotee (sorry, IPAR!), I now better understand and appreciate the benefits of qualitative analysis. I am hoping to learn more about mixed qualitative/quantitative research methods in my last year at La Follette.

In addition to the work on urban sanitation, I was also able to help with an analysis of Rwanda’s national budget. This experience provided me with good exposure to Rwanda’s budgeting process and a better understanding of how to carry out a budget analysis. Beyond the projects I was directly involved in, it was a very valuable experience to be in IPAR’s offices and get to see how a think tank in Rwanda works. I enjoyed getting to know the IPAR research team and learning about the variety of other ongoing research projects at the organization.

New York Department of Citywide Administrative Services

Being a New Jersey native, I was very happy to return to the Northeast for the summer and intern at the New York Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS).  DCAS is the branch of the municipal government in NYC that supports government recruitment, manages the upkeep of government facilities and oversees city procurement. Working within the Office of Citywide Purchasing (OCP), I assisted in a myriad of projects that investigated NYC procurement policy in hopes of identifying savings opportunities.

The largest project that I was involved with was the implementation of the Enterprise Print Management solution called NYC PrintSmart. NYC government spent approximately $68 million on its print infrastructure in 2010 and this solution was designed to yield robust savings by reducing the number of print devices in each agency, simplify the procurement process, leverage the latest innovations in print technology, and inculcate accountability for printing among city employees in addition to reducing the City’s carbon footprint and electrical consumption.  Through writing a weekly newsletter that was sent out to all the agency heads, editing RACI and CAPM documents, as well as attending a device demonstration at Xerox headquarters (whom the City contracted for the job) I gained an appreciation for all the communication that goes into managing a citywide project.

Aside from dealing with projects that were already being implemented, I also gained experience in working with large sets of disparate data.  I helped the Strategic Sourcing and Spend Analysis (SS&SA) group in conducting a study of the City’s IT spending where I witnessed the issues caused by the hazy distinction between physical goods and intangible services. In addition to working with the numbers, I participated in countless meetings with agencies, both in NY and other states, to compare and contrast best practices that the City could employ.

My experience at DCAS was unforgettable and had me doing everything from tracking down missing invoices from hotels that housed Hurricane Sandy victims to visiting the set of the HBO hit series Boardwalk Empire.  All of this plus I got to work in downtown Manhattan where I could walk across the Brooklyn Bridge during my lunch break.  Anyone interested in state procurement and is in or wishes to be placed in a New York State of Mind would love this internship.

Office of Business Support and Sustainability, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

During the summer of 2013, I interned with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. I worked in the Office of Business Support and Sustainability, specifically on the Legacy Communities’ Green Tier Charter program. The Charter has both a sustainability and water component and acts as a means for association of communities across the state of Wisconsin to progress specific sustainability goals.

I worked primarily on the water charter, which currently has Appleton and Middleton as signatories. I compiled research and summaries of successful case studies regarding holistic watershed management throughout the country. The case studies approached similar water policy problems experienced in Wisconsin and were analyzed from a watershed level. Solutions worked with the natural water cycle and aimed to enhance the watershed as a whole. The research was meant to highlight possible holistic practices and solutions that may be useful to the charter’s signatories as well as elucidate implementation features that could possibly be adopted by the DNR in the future.

In addition to this research, I also organized the Legacy Communities summer webinars that brought members together to learn about different environmental topics.

Partnership for Public Service

This summer I served as a Research Fellow through the Partnership for Public Service’s Public Service Fellows Program. The Partnership for Public Service is a non-profit in Washington D.C. that is best known for its annual Best Places to Work in the Federal Government list and its Service to America Medals. However, its reach extends much further than these two programs. It engages leaders and agencies to improve the effectiveness of the federal government and to improve the public’s perception of it by highlighting best practices.

As a Research Fellow, I actively participated in several of the Partnership’s research studies, including one evaluating the role of Performance Improvement Officers and one assessing the use of mission analytics in federal agencies. Participating in these studies allowed me opportunities to attend interviews at a multitude of federal agencies as well as to participate in the data analysis, storyboarding, and writing of these reports.

Not only was I able to actively participate in the Research Team’s activities, but I also engaged in professional development through the Public Service Fellows Program. The Fellows Program regularly brings together all of the fellows for workshops regarding interviewing, public speaking, resume writing, and to learn about the organization as a whole.

This fellowship offered valuable experience working in a non-profit and engaging in qualitative and quantitative research. Not only that, but it introduced me to a community of individuals with a long-history of federal service who were excited to assist fellows in professional development.

PEOPLE Program, UW-Madison

During the spring and summer of 2013, I worked as an Internship Liaison for the PEOPLE Program, a rigorous pre-college program that prepares students of color and low-income students to successfully enroll in UW-Madison. I worked with the six-week summer program for rising high school seniors, during which students identify a potential major of interest and are matched with a UW graduate student for academic instruction in the morning and a local business or organization for an internship in the afternoon. Throughout the six weeks, students also work on their college applications with the help of counselors and staff.

As an Internship Liaison, my primary duty throughout the spring was to match students’ interests with an academic instructor and an internship. Once the program began, my duties shifted to serving as a liaison between the instructors and the internship sites and the rest of the program. In addition, I assisted with planning several events to prepare students for the transition to college, including a financial aid workshop and a student organization fair. I also met with students individually and as a group to advise them on the college admissions process and to provide feedback on their admissions essays.

Through this internship, I learned a lot about non-profit management, and I enjoyed having opportunities to work directly with students. I’m interested in education policy and hope to work for a non-profit after graduation, so this was a great experience for me!

Project HealthDesign

Project HealthDesign, a $10 million initiative sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, explored the “power and potential of personal health record systems.” Round One teams of Project HealthDesign discovered a new type of patient centered health data called “Observations of Daily Living,” or ODLs. In Round Two, teams examined how ODLs could be integrated into the clinical workflow, and demonstrated how they may benefit health care providers and improve participants’ health.  As I began in the Policy Project Assistant role at Project HealthDesign, the program had moved from the completion of these studies to the outreach stage. It was my responsibility to evaluate and assist with the dissemination of our findings into relevant policy-related fields.

By using powerful stories of how the use of ODLs improved patient care, as well as commenting on the gaps in policy that hamper its advancement, I advocated for the support of ODLs by health informaticists and government actors. Through the online blogs, I was able to participate in real-time conversations regarding privacy and security rules, health information exchange, mobile device regulation, and patient-centered care. Through the formal comment process, I had the chance to influence the training of future clinical informaticists. This summer, Computers Informatics Nursing will publish a Project HealthDesign editorial that I co-authored encouraging nurses to participate in policy discussions, a necessary demographic for ensuring patient-centered care. By thoughtfully targeting stakeholders with relevant experiences, I managed to bring new ideas, questions, and considerations to a broad range of health policy areas.

Second Harvest Foodbank of Southwestern Wisconsin

This summer, I interned with Second Harvest Foodbank of Southwestern Wisconsin, which is a member agency of Feeding America, the largest hunger relief nonprofit in the United States.  I aided in conducting Hunger in America Study 2014. It is the largest study of domestic hunger in the United States, and is conducted nationally every four years.  

I traveled around Second Harvest’s sixteen-county service area with Second Harvest staff, other interns, and volunteers to member food pantries to help conduct surveys with pantry clients. Survey participants took the survey on tablet computers in one of five languages.  Roles at sites included one lead Second Harvest person, one counter that kept track of the sampling plan provided by the research company and indicated to the lead which clients to invite to take the survey, and survey support team members that helped survey participants with the tablets and answered clarifying questions.

My internship duties included packing up survey equipment at the Foodbank, traveling to survey sites, setting up survey equipment, aiding in the sampling and recruitment of survey participants, providing informed consent information to survey participants, answering clarifying questions for survey participants while they completed the survey,  aiding survey participants in using the tablets, resetting the tablets between participants, and reporting site data and uploading participant surveys after the close of sampling.

The survey data will be used to identify local and national trends and help Feeding America fight hunger through more accurate provision of services and its support of government assistance programs.

United Way of Dane County

During the fall of 2013 I served in the position of Resource Development Intern at the United Way of Dane County (UWDC).  More specifically, I was an aide to the Assistant Director of Leadership Giving overseeing Key Club level donors.  Key Club donors are Leadership Givers of any age that have donated between $750 and $9,999 in a given year.  Donors at this level receive a Key Club specific personalized form of donor stewardship.  My supervisor and delivered this personalized stewardship by maintaining UWDC’s extensive donor database, developing and distributing personalized donor communications, developing and coordinating donor outreach and involvement events.  Ultimately, our efforts served to ensure UWDC’s success in reaching its yearly campaign goal.

A large portion of my weekly work time was spent updating and/or mining the UWDC donor database.  UWDC keeps extensive records regarding the giving history, work relationships, and demographics of its donors.  I often assisted in identifying donor subsets for targeted personalized follow-up and solicitation.  UWDC prides itself on its ability to involve volunteers from the Dane County business community in the resource development process.  This high level of involvement required extensive meeting and event coordination.  I was often tasked with attending these meetings and ensuring that they were properly prepared for.  This involved duties such as: developing meeting packets, compiling and confirming attendance rosters, researching event venues and catering packages, and following up with attendees.  I was also able to attend and assist with individual workplace campaigns at companies around Madison.

University of Wisconsin System Office of General Counsel

For my internship, I have been working as law clerk for the University of Wisconsin System Office of General Counsel.  The OGC provides legal advice and representation to the UW Board of Regents and administration as well as the 13 comprehensive University campuses, the UW Colleges, and the UW Extension.  The OGC also serves as liaison to state government offices.

My work consists primarily of research projects done for the seven fantastic attorneys who make up OGC.  Sometimes my projects are just for internal use; sometimes I work directly with administrators and staff at the various campuses.  Sometimes we work on litigation or specific problems posed to us by staff; other times we work to educate our schools on legal issues and best practices to stop problems from arising in the first place.  I often have to help evaluate the implications for UW operations of laws made the various levels of government.  The subject matter of my projects has varied widely.  I have researched issues of personnel, student discipline, free speech, academic freedom, immigration, real estate, contract, and tax law, all of which the OGC deals with extensively.

Usually, my work product consists of written legal memoranda or other informative documents.  I have also worked to revise and re-format the UW System’s policy on disability discrimination, and filed trademarks for new programs offered and products created at UW.

As a student pursuing a dual JD/MPA degree, I am grateful that this internship has provided me the perfect opportunity to experience a wide array of work, at the intersection of public policy and law in action, for a powerful and phenomenal public institution.

U.S. Department of State

I interned at the U.S. Department of State headquarters in Washington D.C.  I was placed in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, which is a regional bureau whose primary mission is to manage bilateral relations with the 18 countries in the Middle East and North Africa.  The Bureau is the point of contact for U.S. Embassies and Consulates in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as those countries’ embassies in Washington.  I assisted staff with various ongoing projects, drafted information memos regarding current events in the region, and attended think tank events on behalf of my office.  I was able to assist with a variety of portfolios, including Congressional Affairs and Strategic Planning.  I monitored daily cable traffic from embassies and media reports to help prepare reports and memos on the current status of a variety of issues.  I was also able to assist in the planning of the July U.S.-China Dialogue on the Middle East, which occurred at the Department of State.  I prepared background memos on China’s economic and political policy regarding the Middle East, and also assisted with the logistics of the dialogue.  I was able to use what I have learned at La Follette to write effective memos and papers, and to understand complex federal processes, such as Strategic Planning and the foreign aid budget.  I worked with both civil service officers and foreign service officers, which allowed me to observe the different career tracks the State Department has to offer, and assess which track best fits my goals.  I would highly recommend pursuing an internship at the State Department if you are interested in working in foreign affairs.

U.S. Department of State Consulate, Monterrey, Mexico

During my second year at La Follette I was a virtual student intern for the United States State Department Consulate in Monterrey, Mexico. I helped the Political and Econ Office cover security, economic, social, and political news across their five state district in northern Mexico. Besides contributing to weekly reports that were sent to the Ambassador in Mexico City, I also contributed to monthly security reports and analyzed topics in depth for cables. The skills that were essential to my success in this internship were analysis, research, and concise writing skills. I often needed to research broad problems and analyze the news results, pulling out the most important information and transforming it into a short summary. One issue that came up repeatedly during my internship was corruption. It affects many aspects of life in the consular district states and I was able to use lessons from my La Follette course PA 857 Political Economy of Corruption and Good Governance to guide my understanding of this topic.

U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs

I have been working as a Pathways intern at the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) in Madison, WI since December of 2012. Through my internship at the VA I have had several opportunities to use and build upon my La Follette coursework, especially PA 873 Policy Analysis, and PA 818 and 819, Introduction and Advanced Statistics. The majority of my time has been spent assisting the management and growth of the VA’s Lean Six Sigma (LSS) program.

The VA uses LSS to seek out opportunities for improvement using statistical analysis tools to reduce waste and improve the efficiency and quality of the business operations side of veterans’ healthcare. La Follette’s policy analysis coursework and the VA’s LSS method reinforce each other: working with the LSS project teams allow me to experience policy analysis and decision‐making on a smaller, operational scale every day. Our coursework in policy analysis has also helped me to use LSS more effectively. Additionally, La Follette’s advanced statistics courses put me in a position to help VA staff to better understand and meet the statistical analysis requirements to get the maximum benefit from the LSS process.

Interning at the VA has been an excellent opportunity for me to apply the policy analysis methods from our coursework to everyday public service settings. My experience at the VA has been also invaluable in helping me to successfully transition my professional skills from a small private company to public service. Most importantly, it allows me to contribute to meaningful public service every day.

U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center

During the fall of 2013, I served as an assistant to the Director of the USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) in Madison, Wisconsin.The NWHC is a wildlife disease research facility that both researches and treats diseases in wildlife throughout the United States.

My research focused on the issue of gaining compliance from state and local governments given the lack of authority granted to the NWHC. Previously the NWHC had been able to provide financial incentives to promote cooperation amongst organizations, however due to recent budgetary developments the center has found itself lacking the finances to provide such incentives. To deal with this problem I looked at policy options that were available to the NWHC to help garner cooperation while achieving the goal of become the “CDC of Wildlife.” After research, I found most of the issues at the NWHC stemmed from continued funding cuts and losses in scientific staff, however, because of the current political situation and the unlikely chance of increased funding I recommended that the NWHC improve its “brand” as a way of promoting private support.

The job went beyond researching the weaknesses and strengths of the organization. During the semester, I had the opportunity to sit in on several meetings particularly those related to issues of budgeting for the NWHC. This gave me great insight into how difficult it can be to fund an organization in tight financial times without undercutting the overall goals of the NWHC. In the semester I have learned more about the complexity of a government organization than can be taught in any class.

U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.

Over the course of the 2013 summer, I served as a policy intern in the Washington, DC office of a Wisconsin Congressman. I was responsible for aiding the legislative assistants in the office, however I worked most closely with the legislative assistant whose portfolio includes foreign affairs issues and human rights topics. The Congressman’s legislative staff is charged with crafting policy and advising the Congressman on key legislative decisions.

During my internship stay, I completed research on various topics ranging from suggested immigration legislation and SNAP program funding, to Department of Defense Appropriations and U.S. military and humanitarian assistance to various countries, including Egypt and Syria. I was able to attend briefings both on Capitol Hill and at various policy think tanks in Washington, DC, and brief both staff and the Congressman on the information and perspectives gathered from these briefings. Further, I attended important House and Senate hearings on judicial and foreign affairs issues. Further still, I had the opportunity to attend committee staff meetings, and relay vital messaging and background information to the Congressman’s staff.

The most comprehensive task I was charged with was drafting memoranda about a wide-range of policies. These memoranda allowed me to apply research strategies, think critically, and practice extensive policy analysis by determining the possible effect of policies on the constituents of the Congressman’s Wisconsin district.

The congressman’s staff is extremely well versed about the inner workings of the House and Senate, allowing me to gain incredible incite into what influences decision-making in Washington.

Wisconsin Department of Children & Families in the Bureau of Performance Management

During Fall Semester 2013, I was a research intern at the Wisconsin Department of Children & Families in the Bureau of Performance Management. I worked primarily on the department’s PerformanceStat program known as KidStat, which measures and reports on child and family outcomes statewide. KidStat seeks to track outcomes over time and use real-time data to improve programming across county-level child and family services. I contributed to the presentation of data for KidStat meetings for all three divisions in the department: Safety & Permanence, Family & Economic Security, and Early Care & Education. Additionally, I conducted comparative research on similar programs across the country to contribute to the bureau’s ongoing efforts to improve KidStat. I consulted with experts in the field to learn about best practices for strategic performance management programs. As the Bureau of Performance Management focuses on quality and efficiency of services provided, I also researched Quality Service Review protocols across similar departments nationwide, communicating with representatives from other state agencies as well as consulting groups who work with states to create protocols. These efforts for continuous quality improvement are key to the function and accountability of all Department divisions and services, so I was glad to have the opportunity to contribute my skills and knowledge. I also contributed to a number of research projects on domestic violence, critical incidents and child fatalities, and parental military service and incarceration. Through my internship, I was able to expand my knowledge in a variety of subject areas and apply the skills I have gained through my coursework at the LaFollette School.

Wisconsin State Senate

Interning in a Wisconsin State Senate office gives students a hands-on experience in state government. As a full-time legislative assistant for the past five years, I had the opportunity this summer to explore the benefits of interning for a State Senator.

The internship provides interns with a better understanding of the legislative process. Interns can sit in on policy development meetings legislative staff have with interest groups, lobbyists, or other office staff. Not only can interns attend legislative hearings, executive sessions, and floor sessions, they also gain a better appreciation of the work required to get a policy idea to each legislative stage.

Interns have the opportunity to specialize their experience. If they are interested in communications, interns can shadow the communications specialist in the office, helping to develop press releases, work with social media, and respond to media requests. Interns interested in policy can research specific legislative initiatives with the help of office staff and the legislative service agencies dedicated to serving the legislature.

Each Senate office is unique and interns should explore what type of office best suits them. From rural to urban districts, to Senators who focus on economic development or health care, students can find a niche to enhance their experience.

Being proactive will definitely help interns get the most out of the internship. Almost every day there is a legislative hearing or policy conference in or around the Capitol. I highly encourage anyone interested in state politics to explore an internship with the State Senate.