Hilary Shager (MPA ’05, PhD, ’12) of the La Follette School of Public Affairs received an Early Career Academic Staff award from the Letters & Science Professional Development and Recognition Committee on April 13.
Shager, who joined the La Follette School as its associate director in March 2014, was honored for her outstanding contributions in a relatively short period of time. She also serves as director of the Family Impact Seminars, which provide high-quality, objective information to policymakers and examine policies through a family impact lens, and Committee Connect, a resource for legislators to find research experts on campus for topics where policymakers need insights.
“To a degree I think is truly unique on campus, Hilary understands the student, faculty, and policymaker perspective on policy, serving as an administrator, teacher, and ambassador in her role at the La Follette School,” Director and Professor Don Moynihan said in his nomination.
Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Political Science Susan Yackee hired Shager as the La Follette School’s first staff associate director to provide professional management and lead a major quality improvement effort.
“I knew that she was passionate about the subject; indeed, Hilary was thrilled to work on what is her life’s passion—bringing evidence to the policymaking process,” said Yackee, who also serves as director of the La Follette School’s Board of Visitors.
Emeritus Professor of Human Ecology Karen Bogenschneider, who founded and directed the Wisconsin Family Impact Seminars since 1992, echoed those sentiments. “Hilary has the skill set needed to bridge the worlds of research and policy,” said Bogenschneider. “She grasps the importance of the core principles undergirding the success of the seminars, such as building relationships with policymakers.”
In their letters to the award committee, Moynihan and Yackee both emphasized Shager’s attention to students’ individual interests and career objectives. For example, David Boardman (MPA ’16) said Shager has had a tremendous impact on him as a student and in his role as a legislative aide with the state representative who chairs the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities.
“A strong partnership between a vibrant university and the state is needed for the success of both. But, in a hyper-political environment, it likely will not be the public figureheads of the institutions that will change people’s hearts and minds about the other end of the State Street; it will be those on the ground who embody the Wisconsin Idea,” Boardman said in his letter of support.
“As a student and colleague of Dr. Shager, I have witnessed firsthand how individuals like her are the key to a thriving relationship between the state and the university,” he concluded.
Shager thanked La Follette School faculty, staff, and students as well as Bogenschneider and Mary Czynszak-Lyne of the L&S Climate Committee, who said in her letter of support: “Throughout my career on campus, I have worked on many committees; Hilary stands out as someone I can rely on for a solid assessment and opinion on any given topic.”
Shager is immensely talented and professional, Moynihan said, adding that “the innovations she has brought to campus in terms of staff development, teaching, curriculum design, and outreach are, I believe, just the start of a career that holds enormous promise.”
Before joining the La Follette School as associate director, Shager taught middle and high school, and served as a research analyst-advanced with the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.
“It’s a real treat to win an early-career award in one’s 40s,” Shager said at the awards ceremony. “It’s early in my third, and maybe not last, career and for each of those careers I have the University of Wisconsin to thank. I am honored to be a Badger through and through.”