Rachel Ramthun, MPA, MS in Urban and Regional Planning

Photo of Rachel RamthunHometown

Waukesha, Wisconsin

Undergraduate education

Bachelor’s degree in public administration and political science, minor in economics, UW–La Crosse, May 2017

Professional/research interests

Economic, community, and workforce development, but particularly tax increment financing, downtown revitalization, and tourism.

Expected graduation date

May 2020

Why an MPA?

I had actually not considered graduate school until my mentor in undergrad suggested it to me. At the time, I had been strongly considering city management as a career, and I had seen that most positions of this type required an MPA. While my career interests have broadened, in large part directly due to attending graduate school, I still believe that my MPA will only help me advance my career.

Why the La Follette School?

The ability to earn two master’s degrees in three years that are integrally related to what I want to do was perhaps the primary factor. It certainly didn’t hurt that La Follette is highly ranked, well-regarded, and can offer the benefits of a small school with all the resources of an R1 institution. Finally, Madison is only an hour drive from home (read: my dog), which I have come to appreciate at this point in my life.

Career goals

Honestly? I have two dream jobs: Governor and Wisconsin Tourism Secretary, in either order.

In the meantime, though, my philosophy is and always has been to apply for jobs that sound interesting and see how they go. Some job titles that have recently caught my eye include city manager, economic development director, and research analyst at various think tanks in the areas of economic development and public finance. I haven’t ruled out earning a PhD, though I would like to work for a while first.

What I do know, though, is that wherever I end up, I want to be the boss.

How have your La Follette School courses and/or experiences set you on the path to meeting your career goals?

As mostly a generalist at the La Follette Schools, I am learning skills that will be transferrable to any job or career that I may have. Management, for example, will be helpful wherever I go since my main goal is to be in a management position. The abundance of networking opportunities has allowed me to speak with professionals about their careers to determine if it is something I might enjoy, and a few conversations I’ve had have resulted in internship offers.

Fellowship and internship

I am the Todd A. Berry Graduate Research Fellow with the Wisconsin Policy Forum where I research Tax Increment Finance (TIF) use around Wisconsin. I also intern for the Center for Community and Economic Development within UW–Extension, where I have broader responsibilities, but which have included creating community profiles, participating in design charrettes, overhauling its website (please see my answer to the next question), and analyzing housing in a Madison suburb.

What courses have you taken in which you’ve done work for real clients?

In Introduction to Public Management (Spring 2018), a wonderful team and I worked for the state of Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife and completed analyses on its web presence and public engagement strategies. It was not what people normally think of when they think of public affairs, but I have extensively used principles of what I learned in my UW–Extension internship as well as public policy conversations with others in this field.

What did you do before enrolling at the La Follette School?

I came right to UW–Madison from UW–La Crosse where I chaired the Segregated University Fee Allocation Committee (SUFAC). I also held internships ranging from the Wisconsin State Senate to the City of La Crosse Department of Planning and Economic Development to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Extracurricular activities

I am the finance director for the Wisconsin Student Planning Association (WSPA), a social and professional organization similar to the La Follette School Student Association.

People would be surprised if they knew that I …

Have shot archery since I was 4 (yes, that’s a single digit) years old. I even competed on a club team for two years in undergrad!