Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

2018 cohort brings wide-ranging experiences

Student services coordinator Mo O'Connor welcomes new students on La Follette's 2018 orientation day. Student services coordinator Mo O'Connor welcomes new students on La Follette's 2018 orientation day.

With 52 students, the La Follette School’s 2018 cohort includes a practicing physician, the founder of a nonprofit organization, an award-winning playwright, two nurses, a newspaper editor, a police officer, three military veterans, and people with a wide range of other experiences.

The 40 master of public affairs (MPA) students and 12 master of international public affairs (MIPA) students include residents of 14 states, Washington, DC, and three other countries (China, Ethiopia, and Germany). They formally joined the La Follette School family Thursday, August 30, at orientation.

Director and Professor Susan Yackee kicked off the orientation, welcoming students to Wisconsin, to Madison, and to the La Follette School. Yackee encouraged the group to take advantage of the vast resources at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and to find opportunities for collaboration in the community and within the La Follette School.

Following Yackee’s welcome, Associate Director Steve Kulig (MPA ’14), Admissions and Advising Coordinator Mo O’Connor, and Administrator and Career Services Coordinator Katie Lorenze (MIPA ’14) told students about the academic and career resources available to them at the La Follette School.

Expanding on the staff presentation, five current La Follette School students pursuing a second degree or certificate with their public affairs degree shared their experiences, why they chose to pursue that route, and their career goals.

  • Brian Barnett, Neuroscience (PhD) and Public Policy
  • Mikhaila Calice, Energy Analysis and Policy Certificate
  • Rachel Ramthun, Master of Science, Urban & Regional Planning
  • Lily Schultze, Master of Public Health
  • Brandon Senger, Juris Doctorate

“The Energy Analysis and Policy Certificate gives me the opportunity to learn from other students not directly engaged with policy, such as engineering students, while also sharing my perspective on how the policy-making process affects the work they are doing,” said Calice.

The La Follette School Student Association (LSSA) led two activities during a student-only session. LSSA President Jennifer Johnson was joined by the LSSA board, including Hannah Stephens, Claire Zautke, Nathaniel Haack, Chris Webb, Amanda Hejna, Nikolai Kapustin, and Kyle Stanley. An ice breaker was followed by the opportunity for students to share how a public policy has affected them personally.

The morning concluded with a panel of faculty members (Yang Wang, Greg Nemet, and Emilia Tjernström), who introduced themselves and answered questions. They encouraged the group to seek out courses and learning opportunities they would not be likely to take outside of a graduate school setting. Nemet emphasized methods courses, noting, “You’re much less likely to sit down and read a book on statistical analysis than you are about a current policy issue.”

Faculty members Tim Smeeding, Lindsay Jacobs, Rourke O’Brien, and Dave Weimer joined the students during lunch, which was followed a LSSA-led campus tour.

The following Tuesday, the La Follette School celebrated the new academic year with its annual Hill Fest event overlooking Lake Mendota. Yackee welcomed more than 100 students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends, along with Visiting Assistant Professor Robyn Rowe. Former Associate Director and alumna (MPA ’05, PhD ’12) Hilary Shager gave brief comments and encouraged everyone to expand their horizons through networking.

“Networking is not schmoozing. It is not trying to sell yourself or your ideas. It is not about trying to get a job,” Shager said. “It is about listening. It’s about asking good questions. It’s about taking the time and effort to meet someone new and talk with them about what they do. It’s about sharing with them and learning from them.”

The students started classes on Wednesday, September 5.