Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs

The La Follette School Seminar Series engages participants in discussion of a range of public policy issues and showcases the research of faculty from the La Follette School, other UW-Madison departments, and outside the UW-Madison community. Faculty, students, and visitors take part in lively dialogue about topics such as poverty and welfare, health, education, international affairs, trade and finance, and the environment. For more information, email Assistant Professor Rourke O'Brien

Unless otherwise noted, all presentations are from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at the La Follette School of Public Affairs, 1225 Observatory Drive, and there is no cost to attend. Click here for a printable schedule. Please check back periodically for the most current information.

Fall 2017

Wednesday, September 6, 2017
2017 Constitutional Changes in Turkey: Reasons and Possible Reflections on Turkish Politics

Oğuzhan Göktolga, an assistant professor at Inonu University in Turkey, will discuss the most recent changes to the country’s Constitution, which has had 18 amendments since it was enacted in 1982. The most recent amendment – approved by 51.4 percent of voters in April 2017 – is probably the most important because it altered the core structure of Turkey’s administrative system.

Göktolga will discuss the rationale behind this change from a parliamentary system to a presidential system and the possible impact on Turkish political life. Debate about this and other amendments has focused on whether these changes would result in a more totalitarian and thus less democratic country or in a more powerful execution, and thus a more sustainable democracy.

Göktolga and his family have lived in Madison since May, when he began a four-month honorary fellowship with Director and Professor Don Moynihan.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Cost Analysis of Humanitarian Action

During the past two decades, economists have published an enormous volume of work on development and humanitarian programs. However, most of this research focuses on the impacts of development and humanitarian programs – with implementation costs given relatively little attention.

Nonetheless, there is no reason to think that average-cost determinants – fixed vs. variable costs, input prices, technology – for profit-maximizing entities do not apply to nonprofit organizations in some form. While the nonprofit sector lacks an explicit pricing mechanism, nonprofits are subject to “demand” forces for their services in the form of donor behavior.

Nonprofit organizations respond to an implicit pricing mechanism that reflects the programs donors are willing to fund and the budgets they are willing to accept.

In this presentation, Caitlin Tulloch of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) will use a new set of average-cost data points from a large humanitarian nongovernmental organization to develop a theory of average-cost functions for humanitarian nonprofit organizations and make an initial description of their functional form for several kinds of outputs.

Tulloch also will discuss how implicit price ceilings formed by donor guidelines follow the same intuition as price ceilings in the private sector and will walk through the welfare consequences of a new cost-efficiency threshold from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.

A technical advisor, Tulloch previously interned in the Public Financial Management Unit of the World Bank in Indonesia and was a policy analyst in the Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) at Massachusetts Institute of Poverty, where she managed the organization’s cost-effectiveness analyses. Her work has included long-term policy engagements with the governments of Ghana, the Dominican Republic, and others.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Presidential Management Fellowship Program Information Session

Thursday, September 28, 2017 - Institute for Research on Poverty Seminar Series
12:15 to 1:30 p.m., Social Sciences Room 8417
Dream Hoarders
Richard Reeves, Senior Fellow and Co-Director, Center of Children and Families, Brookings Institution

Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Serving the Public Interest in Several Ways: Theory and Empirics
1199 Nancy Nicholas Hall

Robert Dur will discuss a theoretical model about how people differ in their altruistic preferences and can serve the public interest: 1) by making donations to charity, and 2) by taking a public service job and exerting effort on the job.

Dur, a professor at Erasmus School of Economics in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and colleague Max van Lent predicted that people who are more altruistic are more likely to take a public service job and, for a given job, make higher charitable donations. They also predicted that when comparing equally altruistic workers, those with a regular job make higher donations to charity than those with a public service job by a simple substitution argument.

Using the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (which contains data on self-reported altruism, sector of employment, and charitable donations for more than 7,500 workers), Dur and van Lent found support for most of their predictions.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017
PA 802 Public Affairs Seminar Series class meeting

Wednesday, October 25, 2017
How an Investigative Journalist Studies Public Policy: Q&A with Sarah Stillman
Location: 8417 Sewell Social Sciences
Sarah Stillman, a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2013, is UW-Madison's fall 2017 public affairs writer in residence. Stillman, who also leads the Global Migration Project at Columbia University, provides new and compelling perspectives on social injustices, including her current work on the intersection of the criminal justice system, immigration, and deportation. She has captured the human face of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids, family detention, and asylum-seekers’ expedited removals.

At the Global Migration Project, Stillman directs team investigations into immigration and refugee issues, including the rise of private immigration detention facilities. She has written on topics ranging from civil asset forfeiture to debtors prisons, and from Mexico’s drug cartels to Bangladesh’s garment-factory workers.

In 2016, she received a MacArthur Foundation "genius" award.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Working for Democracy: Designing Public Administration in Representative Democracies
Anthony Bertelli, Professor of the Politics of Public Policy, New York University, Wagner Graduate School of Public Service

At the heart of Tony Bertelli's book project is a fundamental idea: the discretion that modern governments give to public managers not only captures the means for implementing policies, but also democratic values and the authority to make tradeoffs among them. How do governance structures shape the democratic belief systems of public managers?

Bertelli’s research focuses on issues of governance, centering on the role of political institutions in shaping public policy outcomes and organizational structure. He has a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a doctorate in public management and policy from the University of Chicago.

An elected fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, Bertelli is the author of four books, including Madison’s Managers with Laurence E. Lynn, Jr., The Political Economy of Public Sector Governance, and Public Policy Investment with Peter John. His work has appeared in a variety of scholarly journals, including the American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, British Journal of Political Science, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, and Public Administration Review.

In addition, Bertelli serves as senior executive editor of the Journal of Public Policy, which is housed at NYU Wagner, and serves on the editorial boards of the British Journal of Political Science, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, and International Public Management Journal.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Experiential Financial Literacy: A Field Study of the My Classroom Economy Program
Associate Professor J. Michael Collins, La Follette School of Public Affairs; director, UW–Madison Center for Financial Security

This randomized field study by Associate Professor J. Michael Collins assesses the impact of a simulated classroom economy on fourth- and fifth-grade student’s financial knowledge and behavior. This entirely ‘learn by doing’ program improved financial knowledge and behaviors, and school administrative data show gains in learning in social studies and mathematics. This option for teaching financial capability with elementary school students is scalable in existing school systems without extensive teacher training.

Collins, the Fetzer Family Chair in Consumer and Personal Finance, is faculty director of the Center for Financial Security at UW–Madison. His work includes the study of financial capability with a focus on low-income families. He studies consumer decision-making in the financial marketplace, including the role of public policy in influencing credit, savings, and investment choices.

Collins is a faculty affiliate of UW–Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty and Center for Demography and Ecology, and he directed the Social Security Administration Financial Literacy Research Consortium site at Wisconsin (2009-2012). He is involved in studies of mortgage foreclosure and family well-being supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, financial counseling supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and emergency savings policies for the C.S. Mott Foundation.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017
The Politics of Health Care: Looking to 2018 with Sarah Kliff, Vox Media

Sarah Kliff, one of the country's leading health policy journalists, will share her insights on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and what repeal of the law will mean for millions of people who rely on it for health insurance coverage. She also will discuss the possible impact of next year's midterm elections and answer audience questions.

A senior correspondent at Vox Media since 2014, Kliff has chronicled the ACA for seven years. The 2012 Supreme Court decision upholding the multifaceted health care law cited Kliff's work.

Before joining Vox, Kliff was a reporter at The Washington Post, where she was a founding writer at Wonkblog. She recently launched The Impact, a Vox podcast about how policy affects people - policies that work and policies that need some work.

Kliff has received fellowships from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Journalism. She has a bachelor's degree in philosophy-neuroscience-psychology from Washington University in St. Louis.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Naysaying and Negativity Promote Initial Power Establishment and Leadership Endorsement
Eileen Chou, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, University of Virginia, Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy
1199 Nancy Nicholas Hall

Conventional wisdom holds that leaders should behave in a supportive and positive manner. Yet, the past decade has seen a rise in naysayers ascending to power.

Eileen Chou, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia’s Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, will share her research investigating the possibility that while we may want our leaders to be cheerleaders, we instead empower naysayers.

Chou holds a doctorate in management and organization from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

On Thursday, December 7, Chou will give the final presentation in the fall semester’s Behavioral Insights for Government (BIG) series. What’s in a Name: The Psychological and Behavioral Effects of E-Signatures on Individual Decision-Making begins at 12:30 p.m. at the Madison Public Library, 201 West Mifflin Street (third floor).

Past Seminars