Alex Straka graduated with a Master of International Public Affairs degree in the spring of 2015.
Alex Straka wants to help solve the problems rooted in global economic integration.
"The pressing issues of today are not just international but global," Straka says. "As the global economy continues to integrate, families, businesses and governments continue to feel the pressures of globalization. There are great disadvantages and redistributive costs that accompany the numerous benefits of economic integration."
To better understand and analyze these costs and benefits, Straka applied to the La Follette School as a University of Wisconsin–Madison undergraduate through the accelerated degree program, which enables an admitted student to complete a master's degree with a fifth year of study. "My objective at La Follette has been to advance my quantitative and statistical skill sets, which will offer me the greatest flexibility and competitive advantage over peers in the job market," he says.
Economic policy, security policy and European Union affairs are his key focus areas for his Master of International Public Affairs studies. "I focused my undergraduate studies on political economy, financial markets and international affairs with a balance between advancing my substantive knowledge and quantitative skills," says Straka, who in May completed his bachelor's degree in political science and economics, plus a certificate in business and European studies. "European Union affairs, especially issues concerning economic policy and the eurozone crisis, continue to be an integral part of my studies."
"As I continue my studies at La Follette, I have found it most beneficial to advance my quantitative and analytical skills that are applicable across multiple sectors," he adds. "Courses such as statistics, times series analysis and cost-benefit analysis offer you the knowledge and know-how to go out and solve the problems that are widely discussed in respective policy spheres."
The variety of focuses and fields students can study and the small classes sizes also drew Straka to the La Follette School, where he is fund-raising coordinator for the student association. "The La Follette School of Public Affairs offers a triple threat to other policy schools," he says. "The caliber of the program, the small class size and the relatively low cost of graduate tuition are an unparalleled competitive advantage of La Follette over other schools."
Straka has been highly involved in European Union affairs throughout his academic career. "In the summer of 2013, I studied in Brussels, Belgium, participating in a program co-sponsored by the European Union to advance my policy and institutional knowledge of this unique supranational institution," he says. "Additionally, I traveled to Seattle, Washington, to compete in a European Union Affairs conference where I received an Honorable Mention. An aspiration of mine is to work in the future with some connection to the European Union."
Straka also represented the university in a Business Today International Conference, a gathering of 120 students from every corner of the map to discuss pressing international issues.
In addition to his MIPA, Straka is working on a certificate in business, environment and social sustainability. "This certificate offers a unique complement to my La Follette courses," he says. "Expanding on the analytical skill set, this certificate can be applied in both private and public sector work, thereby expanding my career opportunities."
This summer, Straka is interning with CUNA Mutual Group's Department of Corporate and Legislative Affairs as a corporate and legislative affairs analyst. "My primary responsibility is to research different topics that affect the insurance sector and our credit union partners," says Straka, who earlier interned at the Wisconsin Capitol for Assemblywoman Amy Loudenbeck. "I am also involved with the CUNA Mutual PAC. All in all, my immersion into the cooperative movement, which CUNA Mutual Group continues to promote, has been an amazing experience. Almost all of my previous experience has been outside the cooperative sector, thus I find this internship as a new learning experience that is broadening my horizons."