Nikolai Kapustin, MIPA ’19

Photo of Nikolai KapustinContact Nikolai


Bristol, WI

Undergraduate education

Bachelor’s degree in politics, Princeton University


Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Job title

Data and Budget Analyst

Start date

May 2020

Primary job responsibilities

My primary responsibilities involve analyzing Medicaid data for the purposes of cost determination or projections. As Medicaid encompasses many complex programs, this usually involves programming in Structured Query Language (SQL) to pull desired observations. I frequently use Stata to manipulate, analyze, and/or visualize the data. I also write budget papers and conduct fiscal estimates on an ad hoc basis.

Describe a project that best illustrates your job.

On a monthly basis, I’m responsible for updating our Medicaid Per Member Per Month (PMPM) cost figures. This involves querying the various databases’ housing data on different Medicaid programs for costs. I then use Stata to combine these data files and allocate costs per program per member. These figures are then plugged into an Excel spreadsheet that forecasts future Medicaid costs based on forecasting scenarios.

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

The skill I most frequently use on the job that I learned at La Follette has been Stata, which has proved invaluable to my data analysis tasks. Comfort in Stata also further served as a good jumping-off base for me to become familiar with SQL, R, and SAS.

Which experiences and skills helped you get your job?

As mentioned above, the ability to code in Stata was necessary to get my job. In my initial interview, I also discussed what I learned in my policy analysis courses and in my capstone project, which I believe made me a more competitive candidate.

Why a MIPA?

When I applied to become a graduate student, I had been living and working abroad for several years, first working at a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Timor-Leste and then working at a university in Singapore. I decided I wanted to pursue international public affairs work, either with an NGO, an intergovernmental organization, or as a foreign service officer for the federal government. A master’s degree in international public affairs seemed like it would be useful for that aspiration.

Why the La Follette School?

A large factor in my decision was cost. Even before scholarships/fellowships, the La Follette School seemed a better deal than other schools I was considering. I also liked that I could get a degree focusing on the international aspects of public affairs. Lastly, being in Wisconsin was also a benefit to me, as I’m originally from here and it’s nice to be close to family.

As for other schools, the two degrees I was most seriously considering along with the La Follette School’s MIPA degree were Georgetown’s master of science in foreign service and The Fletcher School’s master of arts in law and diplomacy.

Project assistantships while at the La Follette School

I was a research associate intern at American Institutes for Research in Chicago during the summer between my first and second year at La Follette. This position focused heavily on data analysis, notably in using Stata to analyze education impacts of different school curricula/improvement programs. While I no longer work in education policy, the data analysis skills transferred over to my current position.

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

First, the client-based project was a great opportunity to build and foster relationships with my classmates while also doing good in the world. Perhaps more relevant to my career, though, in every interview I’ve had since graduating, it’s been very helpful to have this tangible experience to talk about.

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

The La Follette School has a professional-oriented curriculum that focuses on giving you an applicable skillset and list of experiences that will make you a desirable candidate in future applications. The class sizes are small, and your fellow students are sure to be bright and interesting. Lastly, the La Follette School’s affordability in comparison to private universities means you’ll likely graduate with less (or no) debt and will therefore have more freedom in planning and navigating your career path.


I’d like to give a big shout out to Professor Tim Smeeding. He was my capstone advisor and was clearly very invested in helping our group succeed. He’s also served as an academic/professional reference for me in applications since graduating. I’m very grateful for all the help he’s given me.

Favorite book, podcast, app, Madison restaurant …

Favorite (nonfiction) book: Why Nations Fail
Favorite podcast: American Diplomat
Favorite Madison restaurant: Green Owl Cafe