When the telephone rang that March morning, Ana Carricchi hadn't yet looked outside. She was in Madison to visit the La Follette Institute to see if the University of Wisconsin-Madison would be the best place for her to earn a master's degree in public affairs.
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Student services coordinator Bonnie Cleary was on the phone. "Have you looked outside yet?" Cleary asked Carricchi. "It snowed. Do you have a warm coat?"
"I couldn't believe it," says Carricchi, who was visiting from St. Louis, Missouri. "I arrive, and it snows the next day. I only brought a sweater. Bonnie said, 'I'll be right over.' She brought me gloves, a jacket and an umbrella.
"At that moment, I knew La Follette was for me."
Almost 10 years after graduating, Carricchi attributes her professional success to La Follette's supportive learning environment.
"My adviser, Professor Maria Cancian, always made herself available. She made sure I had the necessary resources to undertake my studies as well experiential research opportunities," she says.
This kind of support from faculty, staff and classmates continues to resonate with Carricchi, so much so that she designated the La Follette School, through the University of Wisconsin Foundation, a beneficiary of her estate through a trust.
Early estate planning is a lesson Carricchi learned when she was with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration on Aging, where she studied health care and finances of older adults.
"While at the Administration on Aging, I learned the value of an estate trust. It's a good tool to use to transfer property to organizations and loved ones while avoiding taxes and probate expenses," says Carricchi. "I also learned the value of setting up a trust early in life. You don't want to wait."
When Carricchi acquired some assets a year or so ago, she considered the people and organizations she valued. "I immediately thought of La Follette and incorporated the school into my trust."
After graduating from La Follette in 1997, Carricchi spent 18 months with President Clinton's Initiative on Race and another 13 months with the Administration on Aging. From there she headed to California and worked for the president of the Los Angeles city council.
In 2001 she joined the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration, which advocates for Puerto Rico's government and people in the United States, says Carricchi. The administration was opening an office in the western United States for the first time to better represent the 250,000 Puerto Ricans who live west of Colorado.
After assessing community interests, Carricchi and her agency "determined that the broader community wanted to focus on arts and culture." They collaborated with organizations to promote films, art, children's activities and music that showcased Puerto Rican culture.
Carricchi parlayed that into relationships with California legislators. She crafted a partnership with Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, the only Puerto Rican member of California's Assembly, to display art in her Sacramento office. "That opened the door. We then succeeded in lobbying for a resolution that recognized Puerto Rico's contributions to California, that eventually resulted in conversations to set up a trade mission," Carricchi says.
After three years with Puerto Rico's government, Carricchi is now running her own marketing firm, Carico Holdings, which specializes in Hispanic audiences and holds an interest in a Costa Rican environmental tour company, Caricotours. She plans to channel her energies and skills into improving environmental health factors in the Latino community through health promotion and policy studies.
Throughout what she calls her career "montage," Carricchi remembers what she learned at La Follette.
"Every time I write a report, I think of La Follette, and I hear Andrew Reschovsky say 'Everything must be clear and concise.' When I survived my class on cost-benefit analysis, Bob Haveman taught me that a situation is not as difficult as I had thought."
"At La Follette I got the academic skills and social support I needed," Carricchi says. "I'm pleased to be in a position to return that support through my estate."