After years of lab work, Debaki Ale was ready to become more directly involved in energy and environmental policy.
She enrolled in the La Follette School’s Master of International Public Affairs degree and its energy analysis and policy certificate programs, from which she plans to graduate this spring.
The programs build on the master of science in environmental management she earned in 2005 from Pokhara University in Nepal. “While I was earning my master’s degree in Nepal, I worked for a non-profit organization involved in sustainability issues and natural resource conservation,” she says. “I worked as a reporter, wrote articles on environmental issues and helped facilitate interactive programs with civil society on environmental problems, and policy solutions. This experience got me interested in public policy. After finishing my master’s degree, I happened to work many years in laboratory doing environmental and soil science research. I wanted to shift my focus to environment and energy policy and be directly involved in these fields and not just work in the background in basic research. So I pursued an international public affairs degree here.”
Prior to coming to Madison, Ale worked as a researcher for the School of Environmental Science and Engineering in Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea. In Madison, she worked several years as a soil technician in the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Department of Soil Science.
When Ale was considering her options for graduate school at UW–Madison, she talked with a couple of La Follette School alumni who are also from Nepal about the joint degree-certificate program. “I researched about the La Follette School,” Ale says. “I received good feedback from alum Santosh Lamichanne, which confirmed that the La Follette School would be a good choice for me and changing my career path.”
“For someone like me interested in policy analysis, quantitative knowledge and data analysis, this is a good program where you can foster your interests and advance your career,” she adds. “At La Follette, students can pursue various policy areas of their interest; and they have a choice of dual degrees and certificates. The school hosts various activities for professional developments, seminars and helps in jobs, career and internship search.”
Knowing how to interpret and communicate data effectively is very important for people in policy making, designing and evaluating programs, Ale says. “Data inform policy and policy decisions. Quantitative skills are in demand in energy, environment and resource conservation projects as well. The courses will be useful for me when I work as an analyst in the fast evolving field of energy technology and policy.”
The small nature of the La Follette School is very good aspect, Ale says. “Students get immediate help and advice and feedback from the school’s distinguished professors. Group discussion and group project style of learning are emphasized. Students know each other and help each other in classroom and outside.”
The emphasis on teamwork in the classroom is one mechanism by which students get to know each other. For her cost-benefit analysis course, Ale worked with four other students to examine a childhood obesity intervention program in Wisconsin. “We looked at whether the program reduces the childhood obesity in the state and whether schools should implement this program,” She says. “In another group project in Program Evaluation course, I worked with two other students to design an evaluation plan for the client’s collective impact initiative to reduce the rate of children’s mental health problems in Wisconsin.”
“Working with real clients is another benefit of the La Follette program,” she says. “We help clients with policy recommendations and solutions.”