Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, December 10, 2018

Chris Webb, MPA

Chris Webb Chris Webb

Hometown
Joliet, Illinois

Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degree in sociology and political science, summa cum laude, minor in international studies, UW–Milwaukee, 2017

Professional/research interests
Social policy, opportunities and outcomes for ex-offenders

Accomplishments
2016-17 Distinguished Scholar Award, UW–Milwaukee Department of Sociology

Expected graduation date
May 2019

Age
26

Why an MPA?

I learned a lot about structural issues and explanations for social inequalities in my sociology and political science majors at UW–Milwaukee. I appreciated the lessons I learned, but I wanted to know how changes are actually made through policy creation, analysis, and implementation. Essentially, I wanted to mesh my theoretical knowledge with a more practical skillset.

Why the La Follette School?

Location. It was important for me to stay in the state after undergrad, and I figured that being in the state’s capital city could facilitate an easy transition after graduation. I also valued the program's excellent reputation, small cohort sizes, and selection of classes.

Career goals

I hope to be a reliable, skilled worker at a nonprofit organization or state agency working on something policy-related. I do not have a “dream job” right now, but I would be happy doing something I enjoy that helps others in some way. I would also like to make enough money to feed myself and go on vacation once in a while.

How have your La Follette School courses and/or experiences set you on the path to meeting your career goals?

Every course I have taken has built up some skill I will need in my career. I have improved my skills in statistics and economics and learned the fundamentals of policy analysis and public management, giving me highly marketable knowledge and abilities. I have also learned how to work better as part of a team by improving my communication skills, managing my time well, and knowing how my strengths and weaknesses affect a specific project. My professional development class with (former Associate Director) Hilary Shager taught me how to interview, network, and negotiate effectively, which will be essential in getting a job and seeking other opportunities in the future.

Project assistantship

I am a project assistant for Professor Rourke O'Brien. I expect to conduct research, do literature reviews and data analysis, and other assignments throughout the year. I am currently working on a project aimed at discovering how common tax policy phase-ins are by state. https://www.lafollette.wisc.edu/faculty-staff/faculty/rourke-obrien

Summer internship

I worked at the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) as a program and policy analyst. I worked in the administrator's office of the Division of Employment and Training (DET) under the policy initiatives advisor and the communications liaison.

Internship responsibilities

My projects were split pretty evenly between policy and communications initiatives. My policy work included writing parts of business cases for budget requests and planning a joint initiative with the Department of Transportation aimed at making transportation more accessible for workers. My communications work mainly focused on developing a Facebook toolkit with guidelines for improving and standardizing the way job centers use and communicate on the platform.

What experiences and skills helped you get the internship?

One of the main interview questions focused on how I have systematically solved a complex problem. I was able to walk through my paper from Professor Dave Weimer's Policy Analysis class (PA 873) to illustrate this skill to the panel. My paper focused on addressing the shortage of nurses in the United States. I went through an overview of my paper, including identifying the problem and why it exists, policy goals, policy alternatives I developed and how well they met those goals, and my recommendation. I felt this perfectly illustrated what the panel was looking for. I also highlighted my statistical skills and the knowledge I gained from Professor Don Moynihan's Public Management (PA 878) class.

Client-based course projects

I have worked on two client projects so far at the La Follette School. For Public Management, my group worked for the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council. The organization did not have a systematic way of assessing its performance, so we developed numerous performance measures based on its goals and how it operates. In Cost-Benefit Analysis (PA 881), my group is working on assessing 9-1-1 dispatch consolidation for Green County, the City of Monroe, and the City of Brodhead. This project is going really well so far. The experience I have gained from this real-world work is invaluable and makes me feel more prepared to secure work after graduation.

Advice for prospective La Follette School students

Take some time to think about your goals and how the La Follette School can help you reach them. You can learn only so much from looking at the website, so do not hesitate to reach out for more information! Everyone on our staff is wonderful and can help answer questions, schedule a visit, or connect you with a current student who can give you some insight into the program. We have a tight-knit community, but you should also think about the bigger UW–Madison experience. The campus is big and beautiful and offers so many opportunities for academic, professional, and social activities.

Most challenging La Follette School experience

It has been challenging to step out of my comfort zone and take on work and projects that I might not consider at first. I have learned that most skills are transferable to working in any policy area, and that a challenge can often be, in the end, more rewarding than sticking to what I think I know.

Most rewarding La Follette School experience

The best part of being in the La Follette School is really the people. Everyone in my cohort brings something unique to the program, and it is rewarding to be surrounded by and learn from such bright and driven individuals. Being in this environment pushes me to do better myself.

Life before La Follette

I came to the La Follette School right out of undergrad in Milwaukee. Some of my previous professional experience includes an internship with a state representative and an internship at the Milwaukee Justice Center. There, I helped low-income clients fill out and file paperwork for their family law cases related to things like divorce, child support, physical placement of children, and name changes.

La Follette School Student Association (LSSA) involvement

I served in my first year and this year as one of LSSA's Community Service and Outreach Coordinators. My main duty is to organize service opportunities for La Follette School students on campus and throughout the Madison area.

Other activities

As part of my role in LSSA, I volunteer with other Bobs about once a month. This year, I hope to increase that to two activities a month. Since being at La Follette, my volunteer work has included collecting professional clothing donations for first-generation and historically underrepresented students, completing a shift at a food pantry, and working with staff member Marjorie Matthews to organize the annual La Follette School Penny Wars.
https://www.lafollette.wisc.edu/about/welcome-from-the-student-association

People would be surprised if they knew that I …

attended 11 schools growing up, including four high schools. I graduated high school in Germany, where I lived with my mom while she was stationed there with the U.S. Army.