Expected graduation date
Bachelor’s degrees in political science and economics, University of Wisconsin- Madison, 2016
Education policy, poverty alleviation, workforce development
Dean’s List (5 of 6 undergraduate semesters), Stanoch Family Scholarship (UW Department of Political Science), Thomas W. Parker Scholarship (UW College of Letters & Science), graduated with distinction, La Follette Project Assistantship, National AP Scholar
I came to UW-Madison to experience a new environment and for the strength of UW’s academic programs. I grew up in Los Angeles and Phoenix. Our winters were much different, and I have always wanted to live someplace where it snows. I had some second thoughts once the first winter came alon,g but my experiences at UW have been overwhelmingly positive.
Why an MPA?
I have sought a career in public service ever since I began taking political science courses as an undergrad at UW-Madison. As a child growing up in Los Angeles, the concept that we can come together to foster opportunity, not just for ourselves, but for those who are most vulnerable, really connected with my personal experiences and values.
An MPA from La Follette is a powerful and flexible degree for anyone thinking about public service or the policy field. As a legislative aide in the Wisconsin State Senate, I worked for a senator who represents Milwaukee, America’s most segregated metropolitan area. Only 15 percent of K-8 students there read at grade level. In addition to educational disadvantages, our constituents were plagued with high poverty, high unemployment, and disproportionate contacts with the criminal justice system. Solving social ills requires well-developed policy prescriptions, community partnerships, and the trust of the constituents we strive to serve. The tools an MPA provides would help me understand policy implications and ultimately make me a better public servant.
I found out about the accelerated MPA program from an advisor in the Department of Political Science. Pursuing an accelerated MPA was an easy decision. It is an incredible program that allowed me to concurrently finish my undergraduate studies while expanding my analytical and management skills through graduate coursework.
These skills have helped me become an effective leader both as a legislative aide in the Wisconsin State Senate, and as an officer in the American Civil Liberties Union Student Alliance. I am grateful for this opportunity and for those who have helped me further my personal development.
Summer internship at the Urban Institute
I had a wonderful summer experience as an associate at the Urban Institute. I worked in the Income and Benefits Policy Center on the Welfare Rules Database (WRD), a longitudinal nationwide resource that tracks Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) policies across the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Since the 1996 passage of welfare reform, states were granted broad flexibility to create their own cash assistance programs under TANF. As a result, each state began to implement its own policies to determine eligibility and benefit payments for cash welfare recipients.
I worked with another MPA candidate from New York University, a senior research fellow, and numerous research associates to track and examine TANF policy updates that states have made in the past year. We then coded these policies for applicable categories within the WRD. A comprehensive TANF databook containing these updates will be published next August as part of an Urban Institute contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.
Which experiences and skills helped you get the internship?
My experiences I have had in the Wisconsin legislature and the skills I have learned in my coursework helped me as an applicant and on the job as an intern. Most helpful were the analytical skills I gained in class and applying them to dense legislative and administrative rules.
Second-year project assistantship
I am a project assistant with Professor Dave Weimer. I will assist in economic literature review and data analysis to support his research on the impact of additional experience on job performance for cardiac artery bypass (CABG) surgeons.
Currently, I am working with Professor Susan Yackee to examine tuition assistance benefits offered to employees of higher education institutions and their dependents. This research will be presented to the provost of UW–Madison and faculty.
What are your career goals?
I want to work toward helping those who are most vulnerable in our communities. During my time at the Urban Institute, I saw how many children and low-income people found themselves without assistance due to the 1996 changes made to cash welfare. Deep poverty remains persistent and when the financial markets collapsed in 2008, the safety net of last resort – TANF, did not catch those who became destitute.
Investments in education and skills training are important steps in poverty alleviation, but designing a comprehensive program to respond to those in need has proven to be extremely complex. I hope to use the analytical and management skills I learn at La Follette to fight for opportunity and economic mobility.
How have your La Follette School courses and/or experiences set you on the path to meeting your career goals?
The faculty and challenging coursework at La Follette have helped me develop skills that are invaluable to those pursuing a career in public policy. As an accelerated student, I immediately noticed some key differences between undergraduate and La Follette coursework. For instance, La Follette’s smaller classes allows you to get to know your peers and faculty. Another difference is La Follette’s emphasis on real-world clients and long-term projects.
This is especially useful to develop the career-ready skills that have made La Follette graduates stand out in the workplace. What I believe really sets La Follette apart from other programs, in addition to the academic rigor of coursework, is the support students have received from the program. Academic faculty and administrators know your name and take a sincere interest in your goals and development. It is always nice to know that your program has your back.
Advice for prospective La Follette School students
Apply. La Follette is a great program with the flexibility to let you grow as a student and future policy buff. Also, make sure to enjoy the lake before it freezes!
I have lived in China for about 30 months. I speak the language and can bargain like crazy. Buy me lunch, and I’ll make sure you get the best deals.
People would be surprised if they knew ...
I actually can’t sing in the shower.