Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Matt Smalley, MIPA

Matt Smalley, MIPA

Ephrata, Pennsylvania

High school
Lancaster Catholic High School

Undergraduate studies
Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, U.S. Military Academy

Professional/research interests
U.S. Security Policy (regionally focused on Europe), Transatlantic Policy

Expected graduation date
May 2017

Certificates being pursued
Graduate Certificate in European Studies

Why a MIPA?
I want to work internationally. Four years ago, I made the decision to transfer from military aviation to political-military affairs. My studies at La Follette will be the culmination of my training and prepare me for work in this area. During this transition, I began working as a U.S. Army Foreign Area Officer (FAO), working on political-military operations in Europe. Best described as a “Soldier-Statesman,” FAOs advise senior, diplomatic decision-makers on political-military operations, provide cultural expertise to military commanders, build long-term relationships with foreign leaders, and coordinate security cooperation programs with other nations. I have been assigned as a FAO for the U.S. Army since November 2013. During 2014 and 2015, I was posted at the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest, Romania. Immediately following this assignment, I began my coursework at UW.

Why the La Follette School?
I chose the La Follette School for the emphasis on policy-making skills (quantitative analysis courses and in-depth policy-analysis), the quality of instruction in economics/political science, and the flexibility to tailor a program that best suits me with electives in the MIPA program.

Summer internship
I worked as the business development intern for the International Development Group at RTI International. Along with a relatively small team of business development specialists, I analyzed the value of past opportunities, managed day-to-day aspects of business administration, and examined areas of potential growth. My business administration functions included strategy development and process management; gathering business intelligence; identifying and developing clients, partners, and contacts; supporting business capture; and proposal development.

Volunteer activities
I participate in the UW-Madison Chapter of European Horizons, a U.S.-based, nonpartisan, student think-tank devoted to transatlantic issues.

I am employed as a Captain in the U.S. Army; however, I do not have any obligations outside of coursework at UW-Madison. I attend UW as part of the Army’s Advanced Civil Schooling (ACS) program, which allows me to remain on active duty. Upon completion, I will continue working for the military.

Tony Singleton (MA ’73) has been a fantastic mentor over the past year. He has given me invaluable perspective and insight into international work and various career paths.

Career goals
My goal is to eventually serve as the defense attaché at a U.S. Embassy in Europe. The defense attaché is the primary military adviser to the ambassador and Country Team on military issues and the senior Department of Defense (DoD) official in that country. This person represents the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and greater DoD elements; plans and coordinates U.S. military activities; and oversees U.S. military training programs.

How has the La Follette School set you on the path to meeting your career goals?
My coursework at La Follette has given me a solid foundation for policy analysis. In addition to a greater understanding of the political/economic forces at work, it was important to me that I possess the core skills necessary to provide the best advice possible to senior, strategic decision-makers. Accordingly, understanding the genesis of sound policies and how to efficiently produce these was extremely important to me.

Advice for prospective La Follette School students
I would recommend that students take advantage of the flexibility in the MIPA program. UW–Madison possesses outstanding expertise in political science, economics, and regional studies. These studies help relate the core skills taught at La Follette and ensure that you have a program of study that truly fits your individual needs.

Most challenging experience at La Follette
The greatest challenge was getting back into intensive academic work nine years after earning my bachelor’s degree. My classmates have been a remarkable resource that helped with this. Their spirit and willingness to collaborate has been invaluable.

Most rewarding experience at La Follette
The most rewarding thing for me is the opportunity to learn from my classmates. Their perspective, expertise, and knowledge are quite valuable to me, and I am glad that I have the chance to learn from them in addition to the normal coursework.

Is there anything you’d like to add?
I live in Madison with my wife, Renee, and our daughter, Emma (3). We’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to live all over the United States (Pennsylvania, North Dakota, New York, Alabama, Hawaii, Washington, D.C.), but Madison has been an exceptional place to live. The vibrant community and quality of life are excellent.

Why the U.S. Military Academy?
I choose to attend West Point because of its reputation as an engineering school. As a high school student, I was interested in studying robotics and electro-mechanical systems. After graduation, I learned to fly Blackhawk Helicopters for the Army. I then spent five years as an aviation officer in Hawaii. During that time, I had one-year deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan. I then began working as a foreign area officer. First, I studied Romanian at the Defense Language Institute in Washington, D.C. Then, I worked at the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest.