Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, July 23, 2019

'08 alumna MacDonald named DC Badger of the Year, takes new job

Ryan Tobiasz, president of the Wisconsin Alumni Association DC Chapter, presents the DC Badger of the Year award to Alexis MacDonald (MPA '08) at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in DC. Ryan Tobiasz, president of the Wisconsin Alumni Association DC Chapter, presents the DC Badger of the Year award to Alexis MacDonald (MPA '08) at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in DC.

After 11 years with the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), Alexis MacDonald (MPA ’08) has accepted a position as a professional staff member for the US House of Representatives’ Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. MacDonald also recently received the Badger of the Year Award from the Wisconsin Alumni Association’s DC Chapter.

“Alexis is a shining example of La Follette School alumni,” said La Follette School Director Susan Webb Yackee. “She mentors students, assists with the La Follette in DC career exploration program, helped organize the La Follette School’s first class reunion, and gives back to her alma mater in so many other ways.”

As a graduate student, MacDonald worked for UW–Madison’s Evidence-Based Health Policy Project, interned with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, and volunteered as a Girl Scout leader. She also was a project assistant for Professor Bobbi Wolfe, who was serving as the La Follette School’s director at the time.

Although she had no Wisconsin ties before studying there, MacDonald decided to pursue her master’s degree at the La Follette School because the Wisconsin Idea resonated with her.

“I was drawn to UW–Madison’s longstanding commitment to extending its expertise beyond campus borders to solve problems and make positive changes throughout the state, the nation, and the world,” she said.

From 2008 to 2019, MacDonald worked for GAO, an independent, nonpartisan agency that evaluates federal programs at the request or mandate of Congress. She primarily evaluated the delivery of health care services by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), having served as the lead analyst on many GAO reviews relating to the accessibility, quality, and cost of veterans’ health care.

MacDonald’s work at GAO led to numerous recommendations that have been implemented by the VA, helping to improve the agency’s performance and ensure better accountability. In 2015, GAO honored MacDonald with a meritorious service award, in recognition of her outstanding and sustained performance in the oversight of veterans’ health care.

Outside of GAO, MacDonald demonstrates her commitment to the Wisconsin Idea by serving as a volunteer with Badger Honor Flight – a Madison-based nonprofit organization that flies military veterans to Washington, DC, to visit the memorials built in their honor. She began volunteering in 2010 and became co-coordinator of the DC-based volunteer pool (with UW–Madison alumna Niki Sollinger) in 2015.

“She selflessly gives up four to five Saturdays a year, and countless number of hours before the day of the flight to coordinate volunteers to serve as tour guides, guardians and at-large support for Badger Honor Flight,” said Jody McClain, who nominated MacDonald.

McClain, a former flight coordinator for Badger Honor Flight, said MacDonald also organizes DC-based fundraisers for Badger Honor Flight and other events to generate interest in volunteering with Badger Honor Flight. “Alexis and her team … play a critical part in what most veterans call ‘the trip of a lifetime’,” McClain added.