Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Friday, August 26, 2016

Aaron Varner (MPA '09)

Aaron Varner (MPA '09)

Other degrees
Juris doctor, Chicago-Kent College of Law

Job title
Director of Document Automation

Directlaw, Inc.

How have your La Follette School courses and/or experiences contributed to meeting your career goals?
At La Follette, I focused my studies on policy and technology. I currently work for a legal technology company that expands access to the justice system using online questionnaires that generate complete legal documents. Directlaw, Inc. is at the forefront of the growing unbundled legal services movement, where attorneys provide low-cost, quality legal resources to people who need legal help but cannot afford full representation.

Most challenging experience at the La Follette School
The end of my third semester. I think I had something like 80 pages worth of papers due over a couple weeks, and I had to leave town to be with my family when my father had a stroke. I studied and wrote at the hospital in Houston, but I was still unable to meet all of my deadlines. Every one of my professors were very understanding with extensions, though. I’m still grateful to them for that.

Most rewarding experience at the La Follette School
Learning so much about economics and statistics. I think these skills are vital for understanding how the modern world works.

Why would you recommend the La Follette School to a prospective student?
It’s a small, tight-knit school with access to world-class, big-campus resources. The professors are top-class scholars who care about their students.

Why an MPA?
I served in the Peace Corps, expecting to come back to the United States to pursue a career in psychological research. Instead it spurred an interest in policy, which I decided to pursue at La Follette; in large part, thanks to the scholarship I received.

Why the La Follette School?
I was a psychology major at Texas A&M, which was a huge program. I didn’t know anyone – classmates or professors. It was just too massive. La Follette is part of the University of Wisconsin, so students have access to a very wide range of resources. But it’s also a small school where everyone gets knows each other. And it’s in Madison, which is a great town. I had firmly decided that I wasn’t going to go to graduate school unless I really liked the city. I visited Madison, and it fit the bill.

Anything else?
I think it’s great that as a UW student, you can take ridiculously inexpensive sailing classes at the Hoofers club.