After working for several years in refugee resettlement, Linda Collins decided to broaden her skill set by going to graduate school. "I had been working domestically and internationally for a few years, and I was involved in implementing programs that usually had mixed results," Collins says. "I wanted to prepare myself for positions of greater influence or responsibility for program and policy design."
She chose the La Follette School for its professional program and the practical policy analysis skills that students practice. "The La Follette curriculum is designed to prepare students for a variety of jobs," says Collins, who is enrolled in the Master of International Public Affairs program.
She adds that the school's offer of a fellowship for her first year is a big benefit. "I really appreciate La Follette making this degree so affordable for me! I may not have been able to return to school otherwise."
This year Collins holds a project assistantship with public affairs professor Tim Smeeding, director of the Institute for Research on Poverty. She is researching changes in mobility associated with the recent nationwide recession.
Collins spent her summer as an intern with the Conflict Resolution Program at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The center operates peace and health programs around the world. Collins focused on South Sudan, which gained independence on July 9, 2011. "I enjoyed having the unique opportunity to work with an organization engaging on a high level with a territory as it transitioned to independence," she says. "Operating within a continuously changing context was an exciting challenge."
Collins' tasks including working with program staff to formulate proposals, analyze and conceptualize conflict dynamics, write and edit drafts, meet with potential partners, and prepare initial designs for monitoring and evaluation. "I researched organizational guidelines on monitoring and evaluation of peace-building programs and delivered an informational presentation to Carter Center staff," Collins says. "I also researched topics of concern to staff, writing reports and assembling resources."
Collins came to La Follette after working with a refugee resettlement agency in Minneapolis, the U.S. resettlement program in Ghana, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Ethiopia and Venezuela. She graduated from Beloit College and then taught English in Brazil and Spain.
The flexibility of the La Follette's School's program enables Collins to take courses on issues in developing countries in addition to skills courses in international governance, micro- and macroeconomics, policy analysis, cost-benefit analysis, performance management, and program evaluation.
Collins' broad interests coupled with the skills she is practicing as part of her MIPA program mean her career could go in several directions after she graduates. "I would like to work with an agency or organization whose work relates to conflict resolution, state-building or international development," she says. "Alternatively, I am interested in working for organizations promoting the social welfare domestically."