Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Marach welcomes opportunity to apply analysis to solve policy problems

Alex Marach

Update

After graduating in 2012, Alex Marach became a transportation policy analyst with National Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus. In 2014 he joined management consulting firm CPCS as a consultant analyst.

Alex Marach likes solving problems and building solutions, and the practice of policy analysis and recommendations will enable him to do just that.

Marach came to the La Follette School right after graduating from Ripon College, drawn by the emphasis on technical skills and a practical approach to public policy issues. "I like that La Follette combines economics and political science," he says. "For me, a strength of the program is the focus on policy and its applications."

His pursuit of a Master of Public Affairs program and a certificate in energy analysis and policy is made a little easier thanks to financial support from the La Follette School's John Gaus Public Service Fund that honors the political scientist's emphasis on combining practice in government with teaching and research. "First and foremost, I appreciate the support of the John Gaus Public Service Fund because it does ease the financial worries that I had coming to graduate school," Marach says. "The support has afforded me greater time to devote to school rather than employment. Lastly, I sincerely appreciate the fund's emphasis on service-minded individuals and its support of continuing education."

"I choose to pursue public service because I believe that I own a debt to the country that has provided me with an education, freedom, and protection," Marach says. "Also, I believe it is important for those individuals who feel strongly on issues to get involved, and I consider myself one of those people."

Another benefit of the La Follette School's approach is that the skills the students gain are transferrable from one policy field to another, Marach says. "The statistics are not just problem sets. We practice useful analysis and leave here with applicable skills we can use to analyze policy and make policy recommendations."

He is working on a project led by professor Dennis Dresang on the turnover of assistant district attorneys in Wisconsin. "It is exciting, our analysis and recommendations could affect the entire state," Marach says, "and serve as a model for the rest of the nation — high turnover of ADAs is a problem in many states."

The transition from Ripon College's small, walkable campus to Madison has gone well, Marach says. "The environment is a lot different, but the La Follette School has a lot of the same feel that Ripon has, that connectedness and community feeling. Everyone works together."

He appreciates the breadth of conferences and seminars available on a large campus like the University of Wisconsin–Madison. "You can go to a seminar on corruption in East Asia and listen to an expert for an hour," he says. "Those kinds of experiences are essential for a well-rounded graduate education. In the global world we live in, the choices of every other nation affect us."

Marach became interested in energy policy while a sophomore at Ripon. His paper for a 2008 course in U.S. national security examined U.S. oil dependency right when the price of a barrel of oil jumped 100 percent to $150. In a macroeconomics course, Marach explored the national security implications on the domestic oil and transportation sectors. In a third project, his senior capstone, he considered domestic policymaking as a means of addressing increases in domestic energy costs.

"When analyzing a situation from a national security perspective, the motivations are a lot different than they are for an analysis from a domestic angle," says Marach, who hopes to work as an analyst with the U.S. Department of Energy or another federal agency.

In the capstone, Marach proposed that the federal government allocate research and development funds for universities and federal laboratories to build an improved plug-in battery for hybrid motor vehicles to reduce the cost of a commute. "As the price of gasoline increases, so does the cost of a person's commute," Marach says, "and then that person has less purchasing power. More affordable transportation for commuters will increase people's disposable incomes and insulate them from price spikes."

Marach took a pragmatic approach with his policy recommendation. "I looked at how to get the U.S. House and Senate to pass legislation and what was doable in the current political climate," he says. "If legislation has no hope of getting passed, then talking about it and writing about it is kind of pointless."