In March 2014, Kate Battiato became career and academic advisor at Monterey Institute of International Studies, in Salinas, California.
For La Follette School alum Kate Battiato, a career is about relationships. Her internships led to paid positions that connected her with mentors and colleagues she met again when she went to work for the Legislature.
Now Battiato is bringing those relationships back to the La Follette School as its new career development coordinator. She started in February and hit the ground running, attending the February 15 alumni reception in Chicago and getting to know the student body with one-on-one career advising sessions.
Battiato comes to La Follette with a wide breadth of professional experience in the non-profit, government and private sectors, most recently serving as a corporate recruiter for the Madison-based software company Epic.
She replaces Mary Russell, who is now a student services coordinator with the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing.
"I'm thrilled to be back at my alma mater," Battiato says. "I'm truly honored to be here and look forward to seeing our current students grow into successful professionals making a positive impact on our society."
Her relationship with the University of Wisconsin–Madison started when she was a high school junior visiting universities to learn about their political science programs — her mother emphasizing that if she chose to major in political science, she would need to earn a master's degree.
Battiato met with La Follette School professor Dennis Dresang, who was chair of the Department of Political Science at the time. He filled Battiato in on the department and undergraduate programs and mentioned the La Follette School's accelerated program through which University of Wisconsin–Madison seniors accepted into the program begin taking core public affairs courses and finish their master's degrees with one additional year as full-time graduate students.
"The La Follette School's accelerated program is why I came to UW-Madison," Battiato says. "I was hooked after I talked with Professor Dresang."
The summer before starting at La Follette, Battiato worked for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources with the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund as a limited term employee while interning at the lieutenant governor's office as a special assistant to the policy analyst. "I made great contacts there," Battiato says. "The lieutenant governor's chief of staff later became the executive assistant at the Department of Regulation and Licensing. He recruited me to intern in the secretary's office, where I compared policies in Midwestern states about the credentials needed for security guards and private investigators."
For the summer between her senior year and year at La Follette, Battiato found two paid jobs, one with the Wisconsin Women's Council, the other with a state representative. "This experience definitely helped me understand Wisconsin politics," Battiato says, "plus I was lucky to have two paid positions."
After graduating from La Follette in 2007 with a Master of Public Affairs, Battiato joined the Wisconsin School Association of School Boards as a policy consultant. Part of her job involved producing a monthly research journal. Each issue highlighted a policy topic that Battiato would research. She identified Wisconsin school boards whose policies could serve as models for school boards across the state. "I would interview district staff and school board members about the policy and how they implemented it and why it worked so well," Battiato says. "All the writing and research I did at La Follette was really helpful, plus I was very comfortable with the legal and policy topics. School board policy is closely tied to legal requirements, and I was generally comfortable working with legal text."
Battiato put her policy analysis skills to work when she became an aide to a Wisconsin state representative in 2009. She found that her ability to frame policy problems and solutions in economic terms was essential. "I owe that skill to David Weimer's Introduction to Policy Analysis course," Battiato says. "I brought my copy of Weimer and [Aidan] Vining's textbook Policy Analysis to work."
She found that relationships she established during the Public Affairs Workshop were helpful in her work at the Legislature. "Our capstone was on recidivism rates, and we produced it for the Legislative Council," Battiato says. "When I went to work at the Capitol, I was fortunate to be able to build on my relationship with my contact at the council."
"Among legislators and staff at the Capitol, the La Follette degree definitely gave me a certain amount of credibility," Battiato says. "Also, I had instant rapport with lobbyists who were alumni. The degree gives you something in common with many of the people you are working with."
When Battiato joined Epic as a corporate recruiter, she found her personnel management course was applicable in the private-sector setting. "I was able to show them that the initial process of screening applicants shouldn't weed out too many people, that the system could catch people who lacked a particular qualification later in the application process."
Battiato is now sharing her experiences with La Follette School students as she conducts career assessments, reviews résumés and advises on cover letters as students seek jobs and internships.
"My experience as a student here has really helped me understand the needs of the students and ways to make the career development program even stronger," she says. "My favorite part of the job, hands down, is getting to know the students and helping them get ready to land that first job out of grad school. It's extremely fun and rewarding to get to be a part of this exciting point in their professional lives."