Karina Virrueta Running, MPA ’17

Photo of Karina Virrueta Running holding her son, Roman.Contact Karina


Elkhorn, WI

Undergraduate education

Bachelor’s degree in psychology with a criminal justice certificate, UW–Madison


Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Job title

Medicaid Benefits Policy Analyst

Start date

October 2022

Primary job responsibilities

I lead Medicaid benefits policy-related projects.

Describe a project that best illustrates your job.

Currently, I am facilitating an “evaluation” of the Medicaid prenatal care coordination benefit and reviewing data from the doula pilot project to assess next steps.

How do you use what you learned at La Follette on the job?

I am constantly incorporating principles of good governance and the three-prong public management framework into how I approach all my work. The skills and experiences I developed during the policy analysis and evidence-based policymaking courses have also proved crucial. Because of my educational background, I also tend to get included in or handed any work involving strategic planning, evaluations, and anything else that includes data. Lastly, the data analysis and visualization skills I refined during my time at La Follette have been very useful.

Which experiences and skills helped you get your job?

My demonstrated successes on various policy projects as well as effective managing skills helped me get my job.

Why a master’s degree in public affairs?

Volunteering as an election worker (with my mother who was a city clerk at the time) as well as my work as a grants manager at the Wisconsin Department of Justice were experiences that led me to pursue an MPA.

Why the La Follette School?

I am passionate about the Wisconsin Idea, which is a cornerstone of the La Follette School. I also appreciated the smaller class size and that fact that it’s in Madison (and Wisconsin) – my favorite city (and my home state).

Project assistantships while at the La Follette School

I worked with Professor Hilary Shager (MPA ’05). I assisted with the Wisconsin Family Impact Seminars and Committee Connect, a program that connected legislators and researchers to build better public policy in Wisconsin. This experience was fantastic – and again, completely embraces the essence of the Wisconsin Idea. It gave me more insight into the legislative half of policymaking (vs. the state agency experience of administration or budget requests), which has helped me in my current position.

What impact did your client-based projects have on your education and/or career?

It was helpful to make professional connections. I also now advocate to bring on a La Follette project at my workplace because I see how mutually beneficial the experience is!

Most rewarding La Follette School experience

The workshop course was as challenging as it was rewarding. I also made lasting friendships with my peers and the professors.

Most challenging La Follette School experience

The workshop course was as challenging as it was rewarding. It was also challenging to fit everything I wanted to do as a La Follette student into two years!

Why would you recommend the La Follette School?

It was everything I could have asked for in a master’s program and more! The professors are very knowledgeable, and the coursework is challenging. The people you meet will be lifelong friends and professional contacts. And most public sector workplaces know of La Follette and the high-quality professionals it produces.

Volunteer activities

I am the Board Vice President for Domestic Abuse Intervention Services in Madison. I am also training to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate for the CASA program in Rock County. I also regularly donate and support the family and children outreach organization in my hometown.


Hilary Shager was very helpful to me while I was a student. There are also numerous La Follette alumni at DHS, and we all like to support each other.

Favorite book, podcast, app, Madison restaurant …

My favorite podcasts are The Dollop, Criminal, Dark House, and Spooked. My favorite Madison restaurants include Maharani Indian Restaurant, RED Sushi, Cento, Canteen, and Tornado Room.

People would be surprised to know that…

I moved my house from one city to another. No, I did not love my house so much that I wanted to bring it with me. My family’s business is building and house moving and lifting. You’d be surprised how often houses and buildings get demolished (although it’s happening a lot more in Madison it seems!). When we hear about a house that is set to be demolished, we try to intervene and “save” it from the landfill. It takes a lot of project management to move and set up a house onto a new lot, but we’ve been able to turn our house “project” into a wonderful home!

Anything else?

I met my husband Mitch Running while pursuing my MPA. I now have a 9-month-old baby, Roman, in addition to a border collie, Ziggy, and a fantastic cat, Marvin. My husband and I like to travel. Most recently, we camped in Denali National Park in Alaska and visited the UK (London and Bath).