A passion for public service and an interest in energy policy brought Amy Klusmeier to the La Follette School.
Four years later she is evaluating public programs as an analyst with the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau, initially collaborating with La Follette School alumni Liz Drilias, Andy McGuire and Jacob Schindler to audit the state's Medical Assistance program that served more than 1 million Wisconsin residents at a cost of $7.5 billion in 2011.
As a legislative analyst, Klusmeier evaluates state-funded programs to ensure they are efficient and comply with legislative policies. "I perform quantitative analysis using software programs such as Stata and geographic information systems," she says. "Qualitative analysis is performed mainly by reviewing state statutes and administrative code and conducting interviews with state agency staff and other stakeholders involved in implementation of state-funded programs."
The 2011 alum notes she uses her La Follette School training every day on the job. "The skills I gained in the policy analysis class are especially helpful in quickly identifying current conditions and interpreting legal criteria such as statutes and administrative code," she says. "The theory and skills I learned in the public management and public budgeting courses have been invaluable in qualitative analysis. Public management coursework trained me to identify basic assumptions driving workplace culture and organizational goals. Understanding these cultural issues is critical to program evaluation. Quantitative analysis is important in my work, especially the ability to identify assumptions inherent in data and continue to ask unanswered questions relevant to the scope of the audit. Most important is the ability to translate quantitative information to a format that is easily understood by a general audience."
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Klusmeier graduated with a double degree in public affairs and planning. She added the planning degree after completing the central cities planning course in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning. "I found planning theory to be a great complement to the policy program," she says. "La Follette provided rigorous analysis skills, and URPL provided a framework for analyzing the connections among various policy issues affecting communities. La Follette is a well-respected program that provides a strong foundation for policy analysis and public service. I really enjoyed the flexibility to craft my focus field and enroll in courses throughout campus. "
While a student, she held a couple of internships, plus a project assistantship with the university's Environmental Resources Center, experiences that complemented her coursework. "La Follette provided a rigorous quantitative and qualitative skill set, and working off-campus exposed the challenges of political and social feasibility of policymaking," Klusmeier says.
"As an intern with the city of Fitchburg, I assisted in developing a pilot program for the collection of residential organic waste," she adds. "Performing the policy and cost-benefit analysis was easy. The challenge was convincing community members and elected officials to change the way they manage household waste. I especially valued off-campus work experiences because they exposed the important role public participation plays in policymaking."
The 2011 alum came to LAB by way of a temporary position with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission's Water Division, where Klusmeier worked on an issue important to her — water conservation and use of natural resources. She compiled easy-to-understand information by creating the 2011 Wisconsin Water Fact Sheet based on her analysis of large datasets from 584 Wisconsin water utilities.
"The project required creating advanced queries in Access and quickly understanding and interpreting large volumes of data," she says. "More importantly, the project required translating that data for a general audience to create a document that was attractive and easily accessible. The data in the fact sheet will provide performance measures and benchmarks for Wisconsin water utility managers and policymakers."
Given the PSC didn't have any permanent jobs to apply for, Klusmeier searched for positions at other state agencies. "The opportunity at the LAB was a good fit with my La Follette degree," Klusmeier says. "I felt fortunate the La Follette degree was flexible and gave me several options. LAB provides a great learning opportunity — not only to improve my program evaluation skills, but also to learn about a variety of state-funded programs."
"Public service matters to me because I believe strongly in the social contract and in living in a society where all citizens are provided basic services, equal opportunity and access to the democratic process," she says. "My current position helps to increase the transparency of state operated programs to ensure wise use of taxpayer dollars and accountability to policymakers and the general public."
— updated May 21, 2014