Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Thursday, September 10, 2009

Student group uses blog to expand collaboration, policy discussions

The La Follette School Student Association has launched La Flog, a blog to engage people affiliated with the school to share ideas about public policy.

Nate Inglis Steinfeld

Sylvia Fredericks

"I view La Flog as a public forum for students, faculty and staff to share discussions, promote events and to collaborate," says founder Nate Inglis Steinfeld, who is starting his first year of law school after completing his first year at La Follette in the dual-degree program. "La Flog lets us discuss, ponder, and relay thoughts about current issues in public policy in a forum directed toward other interested individuals."

La Flog has featured ruminations on the EDGE Project in Uganda, terrorists, the death penalty, the blog itself, bureaucracy, dental insurance and mentors. La Flog has had more than 1,600 hits since its inception in June 2009. Those who need a reminder to check it can receive an e-mail sent daily, but only when a new post is available.

For fall semester, Sylvia Fredericks has taken over as the managing editor. She plans to get more students involved in posting regular columns and expanding the readership. "Students can use La Flog to receive feedback on early ideas, explore issues of personal or professional interest, as well as get experience writing about policy issues," she says.

Fredericks is a first-year student in the Master of Public Affairs program. Prior to enrolling at La Follette she worked for the University of Florida in undergraduate and professional student affairs. She tutored elementary and middle school students through the America Reads program and taught incoming freshmen through the First-Year Florida program.

She is enjoying the experiment thus far, which is what La Flog —short for La Follette Blog — is about at this juncture. "Graduate school is a time to gain experience and explore new angles," Fredericks says. "Many of our students have been working professionals for some time and have been unable to really step outside the box with their writing and ideas. La Flog is the perfect forum for experimentation."

Inglis Steinfeld suspects that skills with social media tools will be crucial for policy practitioners. He notes that the White House took questions via Twitter and Facebook about President Obama's September 9 speech to Congress and that a Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate suggests that technology can save the state money. "In my view, these trends mean administrators and analysts at all levels will need to be aware of and have experience with these new tools," he says.