Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rimal's analysis of career leads to public policy


Bickey Rimal

Update

Bickey Rimal joined Concentric Energy Advisors in Washington, D.C., as an assistant consultant after he graduated from the La Follette School in May 2011.

Prospective students

MIPA candidate Bickey Rimal spoke with prospective students at the La Follette School's visit day on March 28, 2011. Read more ...

A few years out of college, Bickey Rimal found his professional interests shifting from chemistry to public policy.

After graduating in 2006 from Colgate University with a major in chemistry and a minor in economics, Rimal went to work in Washington, D.C., for ICF International, a large global consulting firm serving both public- and private-sector clients. "Initially, I was involved in projects that required my natural science background," he says. "With time, I started getting more interested in projects that involved economic and policy analysis."

He decided to pursue formal training in policy analysis as the next step in his career. "I wanted to attend a public policy program that had a strong emphasis on energy and transportation policy, two areas I had worked in at ICF," he says.

Rimal chose the La Follette School and the University of Wisconsin–Madison for their reputation and enrolled in the Master of International Public Affairs degree program. Having worked for a couple of years, Rimal, who is to graduate in May, had a good idea of the kinds of courses he wanted to take — the La Follette School's core courses in micro- and macroeconomics, statistics, econometrics and cost-benefit analysis — as well as those that would earn him a certificate in energy analysis and policy from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

The flexibility of the La Follette School program and the wider campus' resources also have been valuable. "The interdisciplinary nature of the energy certificate helps you appreciate different perspectives ranging from policy to environmental science, to economics to engineering," Rimal says. "It forces you to stretch, to push yourself beyond your boundaries."

During his first year, he worked as a project assistant with the National Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus. "I identified indicators for evaluating performance measures of multistate freight programs," he says, "and I analyzed the impacts of investing in improvements to freight infrastructure on the economy and the environment."

His experience and keen interest in the energy sector made him a good candidate for an internship with Concentric Energy Advisors, a consulting firm in Washington, D.C. Concentric is a leading management consulting and financial advisory firm focused on the North American utility industries. There he updated an allocation model for a major utility, conducted a benchmarking study to compare performance across utilities and analyzed data to explore alternate rate structures. "I also drafted testimony for our client, a regulated electric and gas utility, to respond to concerns raised by a state's Public Service Commission staff regarding the shared services the holding company provided to our client," Rimal says.

At ICF, Rimal focused on two areas of analysis: energy and environmental policy research, and transportation regulation. His projects included simulation of an emissions trading market for U.S. electric utilities to project the optimal compliance options for affected entities and modeled the economic impact on them from emissions regulation. "In addition to running, interpreting and presenting the results of the model, I was involved in updating the model and training new users about the model," Rimal says. He also worked on assessing the impacts of green house gas mitigation policies on the U.S. manufacturing sector.

His transportation projects included an analysis of motor vehicle crash data to identify the main causes of driver fatigue. "I also constructed logistic regressions models to test the probability of a driver being fatigued as a function of different variables related to work," Rimal says. He was also involved in drafting and authoring regulatory impact analyses for two major rules proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

During the 2010-11 school year, Rimal has worked as a project assistant with professor Greg Nemet on a comparison of 11 important energy policies from the United States and a handful of other countries to better understand the relationships between a country's commitment to a policy, such as a fixed target date for reducing emissions, and a flexible approach that adjusts a policy goal over time. "We are trying to see if there is a balance between commitment and flexibility and what we can learn about the relationship," says Rimal, who has been inducted into the La Follette School's Pi Alpha Alpha chapter in recognition of his academic and professional accomplishments.

Rimal urges incoming students to have a good understanding of why they want to pursue graduate degrees in public affairs and what they plan to get out of their education. They should have a pretty good idea about the courses they would like to take at La Follette, he advises. They also should start thinking about internships right away. "I can't emphasize enough the importance of putting in the effort during that first year," he says, adding that a University of Wisconsin–Madison alum helped connect him with the right people at Concentric Energy Advisors during his internship application process.

After graduating in May, Rimal will return to Concentric as an assistant consultant. He expects to do work similar to what he did as an intern, but to have more ownership of the projects as a permanent employee at the small firm.

He knows his choice of the La Follette School for earning a master's degree was a good one. In addition to expanding his toolkit with technical analysis skills, the hands-on nature of the courses' projects has been good practice for the workplace. "The team work, the synthesis of our research and analysis into a coherent report, that we practice in the cost-benefit course and the workshop in international public affairs are relevant, useful experiences," Rimal says. "The problem is thrown at you and you have no background. We have to do research and educate ourselves to become experts and solve the problem for our clients."

"The team projects are very similar to consulting assignments."

— updated September 8, 2011