Two weeks before receiving her master's degree in public affairs (MPA), Karina Virrueta was honored with the 2017 Excellence in Engaged Scholarship Graduate Student award from the Morgridge Center for Public Service at UW–Madison. Associate Director Hilary Shager nominated Virrueta for her dedication to community-based learning and research.
“Being the project assistant for the Wisconsin Family Impact Seminars and Committee Connect, and, thus, working directly with state legislators from both sides of the aisle, requires a special set of skills,” said Shager. “Karina has worked diligently to create trusting relationships with legislators by taking a nonpartisan, educational approach to finding and sharing relevant research.”
In addition to this work, Virrueta is taking two service-learning courses with the goal of social change. She is deeply involved with Wisconsin Literacy through the course Nonprofit Board Leadership Development (MHR 765) and is helping a nonprofit organization that seeks to move people from homelessness to housing as part of her MPA capstone project (PA 869).
“Karina demonstrates her understanding of good reciprocal partnership practice via her work in these two courses,” Shager said. “In both cases, she works with organizational leadership and other stakeholders to try to carefully measure and improve outcomes.”
Virrueta said the Wisconsin Idea was a driving factor in her decision to pursue her master’s degree at the La Follette School.
“As a graduate student, I was in a position to help solve critical issues by connecting research and campus resources with the greater community, locally and statewide,” she said. “It is incredible that the Morgridge Center recognizes and rewards public service; community engagement is important because it introduces and inspires new perspectives, enhancing the quality of the decisions ultimately made.”
Shager, director of the Family Impact Seminars and Committee Connect, added that Virrueta is professional, respectful, and thoughtful about the needs and expectations of the people with whom she interacts – state legislators, organizational leaders, researchers, or citizens accessing services.
“She is able to apply her personal communication skills as well as her policy analysis skills to approach and solve problems using a holistic, community-driven, evidence-based framework,” Shager said.
Virrueta, a graduate of Elkhorn Area (Wis.) High School, earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology along with a criminal justice certificate from UW–Madison in 2013. As an undergraduate, she tutored as a Badger Volunteer at Madison West High School.
Before beginning her graduate studies, she was a child support research specialist at the Institute for Research on Poverty and a faculty assistant for a research methods course on campus. She is currently a grants specialist at the Wisconsin Department of Justice – Office of Crime Victims Services, where she supports nonprofit victim service providers across the state.