Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Wednesday, May 13, 2020

19 undergrads receive 1st public policy certificates

Associate Professor Geoffrey Wallace Associate Professor Geoffrey Wallace

Nineteen UW–Madison students made history May 9 as the first to complete the La Follette School’s Undergraduate Certificate in Public Policy program. Two of them will continue their studies in the Master of Public Affairs (MPA) program this fall.

In addition, two students in the undergraduate certificate program – Tessa Reilly and Evan Steck – have been accepted into the La Follette School’s Accelerated MPA program.

Of the 19 certificate recipients, 14 earned bachelor’s degrees from the College of Letters & Science, four from the School of Human Ecology, and one from the College of Agricultural & Life Sciences.  

The Undergraduate Certificate in Public Policy program is one of the cornerstones of the La Follette School’s Kohl Initiative, launched in May 2019 with a $10 million gift from former US Sen. Herb Kohl.

“The La Follette School is tremendously proud of the inaugural cohort of our undergraduate certificate program,” said Associate Professor Geoffrey Wallace, Kohl Undergraduate Education Chair. “We look forward to seeing the impact of their work in the years ahead.”

Hayley Barwick (Political Science and Economics) and William Keenan (Political Science) begin the La Follette School’s graduate program in fall 2020. Barwick received a fellowship to continue her studies.

During her senior year, Barwick served as a poverty analysis intern for UW–Madison’s Morgridge Center for Public Service and Institute for Research on Poverty. Keenan, meanwhile, received certificates in environmental studies and in Russian, Eastern European, and Central Asian Affairs.

Another certificate program graduate – Christopher Thone – has been admitted to the La Follette School’s MPA program and is deferring his admission until fall 2021, after he completes his military commitments.

Among the certificate program graduates, Amy Shircel performed a valuable public service this spring – perhaps a life-saving one. Her early, harrowing account of needing hospitalization for the brutal symptoms of COVID-19 put a human face on the pandemic and underscored the need for stay-at-home orders. Shircel first tweeted about her ordeal in March. Millions have now seen that tweet or one of the many interviews she did with national and international media outlets.

"Even if you think you're healthy, even if you think you're invincible, you can be like me and feel like you could almost die from it," Shircel told The Daily Cardinal. Now fully recovered, she has donated plasma in hopes that her antibodies can treat others. A double-major in political science and environmental studies, Shircel plans to apply to law school in the fall.

Other graduating students receiving certificates in public policy in May 2020 were Regan Andersen, Paige Anderson, Kalina Bathke, Erin Fitzgerald, Jordan Jerrett, Kelsey Low, Lily Muelrath, Tayler Palkowski, Carly Philpot, Kara Savitt, Nicole Schreiber, Owen Tortora, Estelle Woloszyn, and Pachia Yang.

UW–Madison sophomores, juniors and seniors are eligible for the Undergraduate Certificate in Public Policy; students must have at minimum sophomore status (24 credits) to apply. The application deadline for 2020-21 is May 31, 2020.

The undergraduate certificate program allows students to apply a policy perspective to their major course of study and bolsters their skills for success in the workforce or in their graduate school coursework. Students build a strong foundation for careers in government, nonprofit organizations, or the private sector.

The certificate program is ideal for students seeking careers related to key domestic and international issues such as health policy, criminal justice, education, energy, environmental studies, finance, transportation, and poverty. It also prepares students to be engaged citizens, ready to use their talents to improve the world around them.