Clarendon Hills, Illinois
Bachelor’s degrees in political science and journalism, UW–Madison
Health policy, education policy, housing and urban development
Why an MPA?
I have always been interested in politics, and started on that career path when I began my undergraduate education. I quickly realized that what interested me more were the high-level decisions that had on-the-ground impacts. Public policy is exciting and challenging to me in that the success of policy is so deeply rooted in the experiences of individuals. My MPA has allowed me to see the importance of both personal experience and meaningful data in decision-making. Throughout my time in Madison, I have been fortunate enough to work with organizations that showed me the importance of using policy not just as a mechanism to assist but primarily as a way to empower communities.
Why the La Follette School?
The La Follette School has been an excellent fit for me. As an accelerated student, I came into the program directly from my undergraduate studies. Because of this, I had some initial concerns about my lack of long-term work experience. However, I found that the La Follette School advisers and faculty members provide hands-on work experience on a daily basis. Every course focuses on the tangible outcomes and real-world application. The small class sizes have given me a more personalized learning experience and allowed me to build relationships with both professors and students.
I worked as a mayoral fellow in the Chicago Mayor’s Office. The 28 summer fellows came from graduate schools all around the country. We worked on projects with all city departments—everything from education to transportation to economic development. I worked mostly on projects related to economic development, internal human resources, and transportation. I learned so much about program evaluation and the importance of community relations. I also very much appreciated the level of trust put in us by city staff; we were given real responsibility and received excellent training and development. Finally, the program focuses heavily on understanding Chicago and all of its neighborhoods. We did several sight visits to different neighborhoods, city-sponsored programs, and municipal facilities, all of which gave me an invaluable look into what it takes (administratively and technically) to run a major city.
Which experiences and skills helped you get the internship?
My experiences working with the Associated Students of Madison (ASM) student government at UW-Madison helped me understand the importance of connecting data to policy. Meaningful data is essential to sound policy; however, without proper communication and involvement of stakeholders, policy cannot truly be successful. My work with ASM consistently demonstrated that principle to me. Whether it was administrative decisions I was helping to make or determining new programs to implement, input from the community was always key. I used this skill at the Mayor’s Office constantly, and building relationships with community members and organizations was a crucial element of implementing new policy.
I will be teaching Communication Arts 100 as a teaching assistant and engaging in independent study.
In what on- or off-campus volunteer activities do you participate?
I participate in several shared governance committees at UW, including the Committee on Student Organizations and the Athletics Board. I am also active in local Madison elections and several area nonprofit organizations.
Impact of La Follette School alumni, friends, etc.
Colin Higgins (MPA ’16) has been a huge help to me in my career development and for helping me understand the paths available to MPAs. I also have found great mentorship in all of the Chicago La Follette alumni during my time in Chicago this summer.
I would like to work as a policy director for a government entity, ideally focusing on health, housing, or economic development policy. I also am interested in working in a consulting or government relations role for a nonprofit organization. Wherever I work, I want to make sure I have consistent access to communities impacted by the policies I work to enact.
I also seek to make personal and professional development of other women in the field a major element of my career. I have been fortunate enough to receive guidance by other successful and motivated women in public policy, and I strongly believe in the importance of mentorship in policy careers. My ideal job would include this mentorship element.
How have your La Follette School courses and/or experiences set you on the path to meeting your career goals?
La Follette really does prepare you for a work environment. It has taught me how to deliver professional results and to consider both quantitative and qualitative elements of policy issues. The professors put a heavy emphasis on practical experience, and advisers provide excellent career development opportunities. I would not have gotten the opportunities I have so far without people like Hilary Shager and Mary Treleven being open and accessible to students!
Advice for prospective La Follette School students
While I am by no means a seasoned policy professional, I would say this: don’t say no to any opportunity to learn, especially ones that put you outside your comfort zones. You will learn the most about yourself and your career aspirations from those moments. Secondly, network as much as you possibly can—with alumni, community members, and peers. Not only will you make great connections, but you will stay rooted in what the issues impacting people really are.
Most challenging experience at the La Follette School – so far
I was very challenged by the statistics work we did in our first year. Before starting La Follette, I did not consider statistics my strong suit; however, I now use it in almost every project I do, and I consider it an absolutely crucial part of any good policy proposal. Data is everything—and knowing how to interpret it correctly is essential.
Most rewarding experience at the La Follette School – so far
All of the talks from public policy professionals are enlightening to me. La Follette has brought in some incredible speakers at the top of their respective fields, and hearing those speakers talk about their career paths has helped me shape a path of my own.
Proudest achievement at La Follette – so far
Balancing my final year of my undergrad with my first year of graduate school simultaneously.
People would be surprised if they knew ...
I’ve lived in Norway!