Jiaqi Lu is confident technical skills in policy analysis will help him find work with an international organization and help him advance reforms underway in China.
"I want to learn knowledge and skills about how to solve social issues and do my best to make some contribution to build a better world for everyone," the first-year student says. He enrolled in the Master of International Public Affairs degree program because he is from China and thus is more familiar with international issues.
Lu appreciates the practical nature of public affairs and the professional training the La Follette School offers. He enrolled in the Master of International Public Affairs degree program through the accelerated program in which admitted undergraduates at the University of Wisconsin–Madison start taking graduate courses in their last year as an undergraduate and earn a Master of Public Affairs or international public affairs degree by continuing their studies with a year of graduate school.
Lu is majoring in sociology and statistics, and he plans to complete his bachelor's degree in 2013 even as he is starting the public affairs program. "The La Follette School's quantitative classes are very useful in terms of application and analysis," he says, "especially the policy analysis and cost benefit analysis."
Lu chose the La Follette School because "it is very competitive, and the accelerated program saves me time and money," says Lu, who is focusing his coursework on social policy and international governance. "We have very good professors and useful classes, which will make me competitive in the job market."
Lu is practicing his analysis skills as one of five students on a team in a regional public affairs competition in March at which they will present their strategies for combating childhood obesity, with policy and cost-benefit analyses to support their recommendations. Donations from alumni and friends are helping defray the students' travel expenses.
"The opportunity of the public policy project competition on childhood obesity is very useful and important to my academic and career path," Lu says. "It gives me a chance to use my knowledge and methods about policy analysis and cost benefit analysis that I learned in classes, and the experience is a bonus to put on my résumé. The chance to compete with policy students from other schools will help us to find out our weakness and make improvement."
Lu appreciates the collaboration involved with preparing for the competition with teammates Miriam Palmer, Selina Eadie, Andrew Walsh and Norma-Jean Simon, as well as support from faculty advisor David Weimer. "My colleagues are excellent second-year students," Lu says. "I have been learning a lot from and enjoying working with them. They have been helping me with the policy analysis and cost-benefit analysis classes; I learn additional knowledge and skills from them."
This collaboration is an extension of what occurs in the classroom, where faculty emphasize teamwork on class projects and the small class size facilitates discussion. "The size of classes is small enough to make professors pay attention to every individual student, help them to solve their specific problem and help them to overcome their weakness," Lu says. "That's the best way for us to improve. For example, Dr. Manion's class on corruption was small enough to have deep discussions on class topics and to exchange ideas with classmates. Dr. Manion also helped me with the project that I am doing and gave me very good advice. This class gives me better understanding on general corruption issues."
Career development coordinator Kate Battiato also has been helpful with suggestions about jobs and internships, says Lu, who hopes to intern in Washington, D.C., in the summer.
All of these experiences are helping Lu build his résumé and gain skills that will help him find work after graduation with an international organization. "Public service is important to me because I found that it is the best way to fulfill my personal value and interest," he says.