Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, July 9, 2012

Thorson devises strategies, prioritizes needs


Kristi Thorson

Alum Kristi Thorson helps provide resources critical for ensuring animal and human health and for educating veterinarians and scientists at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Veterinary Medicine.

Thorson directs and manages external relations for the School of Veterinary Medicine. "External relations is a comprehensive program of targeting alumni, donors, businesses (primarily referring veterinarians) and clients of the teaching hospital," Thorson says. "I work with the school's advancement group to prioritize the school's needs and develop strategies to increase private support to meet those needs."

Thorson joined the School of Veterinary Medicine in 2007 after spending 10 years with the UW-Madison Chancellor's Office. "There, I, along with many others, worked to ensure the future health and success of UW-Madison, which, through the tradition of the Wisconsin Idea, gives a lot back to the state and the world," Thorson says.

She started at the Chancellor's Office after graduating from the La Follette School in 1997. "While at La Follette I worked in federal relations at the UW-Madison Chancellor's Office and in state relations at UW System," Thorson says. "Both of these experiences directly led to my first job after graduation. I began La Follette with a focus on elementary education, but through these experiences at the university, I expanded my interest into higher education, which has been the focus of my career."

The flexibility of La Follette's program proved beneficial to Thorson as she explored education policy. "Being able to focus on key areas of interest allowed me to immediately apply what I was learning in analysis, statistics, etc. to content that was most interesting to me," Thorson says. "After graduation I had experience and knowledge in the field I wanted to enter, in addition to new skills."

The emphasis on concise communication was another benefit, Thorson adds. "One of the most valuable skills I acquired at La Follette was the ability to concisely and, if appropriate, persuasively, convey information," she says. "This skill was particularly useful in my time at the Chancellor's Office. I rarely had the opportunity to present a 10-page report or make a 30-minute presentation. If I couldn't get my point across quickly – with substance – I wasn't going to be effective."

In addition to her career, Thorson practices public service off campus as a volunteer with two nonprofit organizations, contributions that helped to win her the Athena Young Professional Award. "In my volunteer work I support the McFarland Youth Center, a non-profit that provides middle school youth – many of whom are at risk – with a safe and structured place to be, which not only benefits those youth and their families, but the broader community," she says. "I also support the Madison Area Down Syndrome Society, which provides support and resources for individuals with Down syndrome and their families and friends."

Award recognizes Thorson's service to community, November 30, 2011, La Follette School News