Mikhaila Calice, MPA ’19

Photo of Mikhaila CaliceHometown

Ann Arbor, MI

Undergraduate education

Bachelor’s degrees in political science and international studies, Randolph-Macon College



Job title

PhD Candidate and Researcher, Department of Life Sciences Communication

Start date

September 2019

Primary job responsibilities

Although I’m a student, being in a PhD program is a lot different than the professional MPA program. My job responsibilities change semester to semester and depend a lot on what grants I’m funded on to conduct research. I also often teach introductory courses as a main instructor or more advanced classes as a Teaching Assistant. Right now, I am funded on a grant through the Department of Energy. I primarily conduct research and I’m working on my own dissertation research.

Describe a project that best illustrates your job.

I conducted two workshops with a team of faculty and staff at UW to bring energy leaders from across Wisconsin to learn about their perspectives on local energy management in Wisconsin communities. In addition to planning the events and hosting them, because they were research-focused workshops, I also collected data during them. The data included pre- and post-surveys and written notes from ideation activities and discussions. I use descriptive analyses for the surveys and qualitative textual analysis for the written data in which I code the notes to find trends and patterns related to our research questions.

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

A huge part of what I’ve learned and carry through with me from LFS is my networking skills and how I apply communication theory research to applied policy problems.

Why a master’s degree in public affairs?

When I graduated from undergrad, I got a job working for a heating and cooling company (James River Air Conditioning, JRAC) in Richmond, VA. During this job, I learned about building design and construction and was charged with creating an energy efficiency sales program to incentivize efficient equipment sales at a time when federal regulations were driving up the prices of refrigerant for less efficient equipment. It was such a technical issue that impacted so many customers – residential and commercial. It became clear to me that this area was going to become even more important as climate change and the energy transition progressed. That’s what inspired me to study energy policy.

Why the La Follette School?

I only applied to four schools – Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and UW–Madison. I got into all of them, and my decision was between LFS and the University of Oregon mostly because of cost. I visited both campuses. At UW–Madison, I sat in on one of Greg Nemet’s classes and talked to him and several others about the program. I was very impressed by the school and excited by the Energy Analysis and Policy program. It helped that LFS was able to offer me a fellowship, making it the most competitive financially.

Project assistantships while at the La Follette School

I worked with Greg Nemet as his Project Assistant (PA) and was an intern for the energy efficiency research non-profit known at the time as Seventhwave (now Slipstream, Inc.). Working for Greg was hugely influential to my experience. At the time he was preparing his book, “How Solar Became Cheap,for publication. I had the opportunity to copy edit his book while learning about the publication process and help with graduate-level research. This experience provided me with a lot of confidence for pursuing a PhD.

My internship was also really great. In fact, I’m still a part-time research analyst with Slipstream working with several UW–Madison (Energy Analysis and Policy) alumni and one of my close friends from my LFS cohort.

Most rewarding La Follette School experience

Working as Greg Nemet’s PA while he was publishing his book and having the opportunity to see the entire publishing process and provide edits/ feedback to Greg along the way was a very rewarding experience. It was during this time in the fall of my second year that I became interested in research and ended up applying for a PhD program at the end of that semester.

Most challenging La Follette School experience

Probably Cost Benefit Analysis – I had an amazing team and learned a ton, but man, we spent a lot of time figuring things out. I’m very proud of the comprehensive and thorough analysis we did.

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

LFS provides everything you need to be successful in any area of policy and in any position related to policy – whether that be in federal or state offices, nonprofits, think tanks, or as a politician. It’s amazing to see how peers from my cohort have flourished since our time at LFS. I also cannot emphasize enough the value of networking opportunities. LFS alumni are everywhere, and they are extremely willing to support students in a variety of ways! Lastly, in hindsight, I am extremely grateful for how flexible the LFS program is. Its design allows students to craft a curriculum that suits their own specialties, encouraging students to branch out beyond policy courses. This flexibility allowed me to take courses toward the energy, analysis, and policy certificate and exposed me to the field that I would go on to get a PhD in.

Helpful alumni, faculty, friends, others

Greg Nemet has continued to be an incredible mentor and support as I have continued on in my PhD program. I am very grateful for his guidance and encouragement which has helped me stay positive and excited about research in the energy space. Greg also introduced me to Morgan Edwards. Although I did not have the pleasure to take her courses, I have learned quite a bit from her, and I am very inspired by her work. She has invited me to speak in her classes and has helped me network at professional conferences to better acquaint myself with the energy policy community. LFS is really fortunate to have two amazing faculty members at the forefront of energy policy research.

Favorite book, podcast, app, Madison restaurant …

Osteria Papavero is my favorite restaurant, with Lombardinos in close second. What tips the scale is the butterscotch pudding and huge selection of amaro at Osteria Papavero. However, I love the cozy family feel at Lombardinos. A podcast I consistently love is Left, Right, and Center – it’s great to hear different perspectives about relevant issues in politics and society that I don’t always have strong opinions on.

People would be surprised to know that…

I am a member of Madison Roller Derby! If you don’t know what roller derby is, look us up and come see us play throughout the year.