An interest in reducing structural inequality brings Demetri Vincze to public affairs and public service.
"There is a fundamental inequality of opportunity in this country that is profoundly unjust," the first-year student says, "particularly in relation to race and poverty. The race, socioeconomic status and geographic location of the family a child is born into play a significant role in determining the child's opportunities and outcomes later in life. I think more attention must be given to this problem and what the government can do to address it."
Prior to enrolling at La Follette, Vincze spent a year in Racine, Wisconsin, with AmeriCorps*VISTA.
In Racine, Vincze worked on a variety of projects. One had him help expand a nonprofit agency's capacity to provide mental health services to low-income persons. "The agency predominantly relied upon grant funding, which is somewhat unstable," Vincze says. "They also wanted to expand and serve the low-income population more generally. I researched Medicaid-related regulations and reimbursement practices and made recommendations to the agency's executive director concerning how the agency might begin billing Medicaid for services. I also set up a sliding fee scale that would allow people without insurance to purchase services at a reduced rate. Each of these measures was designed to help the agency serve a broader population and defray some of its fixed costs."
Vincze graduated from Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 2013, with a degree in political science. While there he designed a minor in public affairs consisting of courses in economics, political science, and social work. "I decided to serve as an AmeriCorps*VISTA after I graduated because I wanted the opportunity to prove to myself that I could commit to a career of public service," he says.
Vincze came to the La Follette School in fall 2014 to acquire policy analysis skills. "The La Follette School's strong interdisciplinary foundation in policy analysis fits nicely with my background in political science and will help provide me with the tools I will need."
He values the extent to which the school is "committed to equipping its students with a highly applicable, sought-after skillset. I am confident that this focus will pay dividends when I begin to look for a job in the field," he says.
The school's familial atmosphere has been an asset, Vincze says. "You really feel that the faculty and staff are concerned with making sure you are successful, both when you are at La Follette and after you graduate. I have world-class professors who know my name and grade my work themselves. I think the value of that kind of individualized attention cannot be overstated."
"Students look after one another," he adds. "After we took our first economics exam as first-year students, the second-years set up a table with homemade treats for us. Little things like that make a big difference."
The scholarship Vincze received through a donation by a friend of the school is another benefit. "If not for this funding, I may not be working on a Master of Public Affairs at La Follette today," he says. "I greatly appreciate the added flexibility that it affords, particularly when it comes to internship opportunities: I will be able to consider a wide assortment of internships, including unpaid positions, and as a result I am confident that I will be able to partake in the most rewarding opportunity possible. I am grateful for the opportunities the scholarship affords me."
At the moment, Vincze is working as a project assistant with the Institute for Community Alliances, a nonprofit organization based in Des Moines, Iowa, that trains and supports homeless service agencies in Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri. "I am analyzing the effectiveness of Wisconsin's shelter diversion and coordinated access programs, two parts of the statewide homeless service system, and comparing various models in use," Vincze says. "By the end of the project I will have published a report with detailed findings and, ideally, created a program evaluation model that can be used to evaluate similar systems in other areas."
He also is working with ICA staff to develop a performance measurement system for organizations collaborating to provide housing and services to homeless individuals and families. With the new system, organizations will be able to track the performance of their programs online.
These experiences in the field and in the classroom confirm for Vincze that public service is the path he should pursue, perhaps for a government agency that administers a poverty-related program or for a nonprofit that does policy analysis and advocacy. "I am trying not to pigeonhole myself into any specific path because I would like to see what opportunities my La Follette education will afford," he says, "but I am committed to public service because I feel that there is something uniquely rewarding about making a career of helping others. I cannot imagine myself finding fulfilling work in any other field."