When Tyrel Zich graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire, he knew he wanted to add a strong quantitative skill set to his foundation of qualitative skills.
“Through my internship with Xcel Energy, I quickly realized that I wanted to pursue a career in energy — electricity in particular,” says Zich, who spent 14 months with the Minneapolis-based electric and natural gas utility as an economic development and community services intern. “In economic development I saw firsthand the importance of safe, reliable, cost-effective and clean electricity. More importantly, I learned about the highly technical nature of the electricity-sector and decided I needed quantitative skills. Wherever I have been professionally, quantitative skills are in high demand.”
Zich came to La Follette to pursue a Master of Public Affairs after graduating from UW–Eau Claire in 2013. “My undergraduate career in political science was extremely rewarding and thoroughly prepared me for the highly analytical, debate-oriented and political world of energy,” he says. “Without the communication and research skills that my undergraduate degree provided me, my post-undergraduate professional and academic experiences would not be possible. La Follette afforded me with the opportunity to gain this highly desirable analysis skillset with a specific emphasis in energy.”
In the summer before he started at La Follette, Zich worked as a legislative intern with the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, where he maintained the public policy website, monitored policy issues, and handled policy research and communication. He also was an environmental and energy policy intern with Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. “I coordinated members, committees, and staff to advance the environmental and energy policy interests of employers before the Wisconsin Legislature, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Public Service Commission,” says Zich, who interned with the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce during his senior year. He also compiled and communicated legislative and regulatory research and analyzed political contributions.
He also interned with the Hamilton Consulting Group, a government relations firm based in Madison that provides political counsel, strategic planning, legislative and regulatory advocacy, grassroots support, and information services to private and non-profit clients. “As a La Follette student pursuing a MPA with a focus on energy policy, analysis and finance, this internship provided me with excellent experience in Wisconsin’s energy and environmental policy-making process.”
As a legislative affairs intern, Zich researched and communicated proposed policy, tracked legislation, built coalitions and supported general office management. “I primarily assisted Hamilton with energy and environmental policy research by synthesizing information about proposed and alternative legislative and regulatory actions at the state and federal levels,” Zich says. “I also helped evaluate policy implications for clients, and I worked on legislative and regulatory issues relating to existing and new power plant emissions standards and transmission siting reform.”
Zich also assisted Hamilton in setting up a customized contact, client, and legislative tracking system to provide internal government relations specialists with up-to-date information. He also provided logistical support for legislative visit days by coordinating meetings between clients and their legislators.
At La Follette, where he was treasurer of the student association, Zich says his academic focus on energy analysis, policy and finance let him take classes that prepared him for a career with a regulatory agency, in a consulting position, or with an electric utility.
“I chose La Follette because of the unique combination of small size, specific opportunities in energy, curricular flexibility to take the classes most valuable for my career goals and all of the professional opportunities of a state capitol city,” he says.
“I know the skills and experiences I gained through La Follette will be invaluable because where I have been professionally, I am consistently asked to understand and interpret quantitative information and communicate implications to decision-makers,” Zich adds. “The demand for high quality quantitative analysis in public and private settings is astonishing.”