Krista (Zieche) Willing (MPA ’08)

Undergraduate education

Bachelor’s degree in economics and certificate in business, UW–Madison


Assistant Administrator of Systems, Fiscal, and Operations


Wisconsin Department of Health Services-Division of Medicaid Services

What are your primary job responsibilities?

I provide oversight and leadership over the systems and fiscal operations of the Wisconsin Medicaid Program. This includes everything from managing hospital and nursing home policy and reimbursement to overseeing the financial management and systems for the approximately $8 billion Medicaid benefits budget and $300 million Medicaid administrative budget.

Describe a project that best illustrates your job.

In 2012-13, I led the implementation to change the way Wisconsin Medicaid reimburses hospitals for outpatient services. Wisconsin moved from a fixed-dollar amount per visit reimbursement system to the Enhanced Ambulatory Patient Grouping System, which considers the amount and type of services the hospital provided to determine reimbursement. This project required a major system change as well as development and communication of a new rate-setting methodology and policy to support the new system.

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

Many of the classes I took at La Follette have a direct correlation with the work I do on a daily basis. The introduction to policy analysis course provided me with a critical understanding of the necessary steps needed to appropriately analyze a policy and how to effectively communicate policy options to decision-makers within an organization. Throughout my career, I have come back to some of the key principles I learned in the cost/benefit analysis course and the importance of taking the time to analyze costs and benefits before moving forward with a new policy. Finally, the intro to public management course gave me a great baseline for understanding relationships and how to successfully navigate through what can often be a complex and challenge public sector world.

Which experiences and skills in particular helped you get your job?

The MPA capstone course was a great way to learn how to function in a team environment where team members have differing opinions and ways of processing information. Almost all projects completed in the Medicaid program are completed within a team environment. Throughout the capstone course, As I began my career, I found that this skill set was invaluable.

Why an MPA?

After graduating from UW-Madison as an undergrad, I worked as a legislative aide in the State Capitol. I realized after several years, that I had an interest in not only understanding how policies are developed from a legislative perspective, but how public policy is developed and implemented by public agencies. This led me to pursuing a master’s degree in public affairs.

Most rewarding experience at the La Follette School

I really enjoyed my time with the classmates in my graduating class. They were (and still are today) some of the most talented and dedicated people I know.

Most challenging experience at the La Follette School

Intro to Statistical Methods: For some reason, that class challenged me.

Why would you recommend the La Follette School to a prospective student?

La Follette does an amazing job of preparing its students to have very successful careers, whether it be in the private or public sector. As someone who hires many different policy and budgeting positions for the state, we look for applicants that have the skills taught at La Follette.

Anything else?

Medicaid is a constantly changing environment to work in, which makes it both challenging and very rewarding. But the most important part of my life is my very supportive husband, Brian, and our two children, Lily (5) and Mason (18 months), who make me smile every day.

People would be surprised to know that I …

run half marathons. Running is great stress relief. But as someone who in graduate school only ran when chased … this hobby might surprise some people.