Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Ben Vargas, MIPA

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Hometown
Wauwatosa, Wisconsin

Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degree in political science and international studies, certificates in environmental studies and public policy, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Professional/research interests
Foreign service, state department, federal government

Accomplishments
Eight semesters on the dean’s list, Accelerated MIPA student

Expected graduation date
May 2023

Why a MIPA?
Ever since I was a freshman at UW–Madison, I knew I wanted to pursue a master's degree as soon as I could following my undergraduate career. In high school, I performed in a mock congressional hearing competition, We the People, where I had to discuss complex legal frameworks and political theory in front of esteemed judges comprised of lawyers, constitutional amendment writers, academics, and state Supreme Court justices.

Why the La Follette School?
I was initially drawn to La Follette for the quality of the professors and the knowledge that I could gain and apply later in life. I was drawn to the Accelerated MIPA program when I learned that I could gain skills and earn a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in five years by the age of 22.

Career goals?
I hope to someday apply for the Foreign Service Officer Test and become a U.S Ambassador through the State Department.

How has the La Follette School set you on the path to meeting your career goals?
Currently, I am working to build up my federal resume by holding positions with federal agencies and state/local departments. The courses La Follette offers such as PA 881: Cost-Benefit Analysis and PA 819: Advanced Statistical Methods for Public Policy Analysis provide skills in policy analysis that I know will help me apply to positions as a policy analyst anywhere.

Internship
I will be working in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Office of Minority and Women Inclusion as an intern this summer. For twelve weeks, I will be working as the deputy assistant handling casework for the office that pertains to veterans’ affairs and their weekly newsletter.

What experiences and skills helped you get the internship?
I worked for the CFPB last summer and, out of nowhere, received a call from them this winter break asking if I would be interested in working for them again in their Office of Minority and Women Inclusion. I was fortunate enough to already have the skills in writing, outreach, and news content creation they were looking for.

Advice for prospective La Follette School students?
As a current peer advisor, I have helped two undergraduates apply to the program. My main advice would be to know about the deadlines and requirements of the Accelerated MPA Program and to understand the differences between the Master of Public Affairs (MPA) versus the Master of International Public Affairs (MIPA). While most employers would find both just as rigorous, the classes vary substantially and are taught by different faculty even when the content overlaps.

Most challenging La Follette School experience?
So far, one of the hardest things for me to overcome has been the age gap between myself and other current students. Many of the other students have come into the program having already gained many skills and technical abilities that make learning easier than it is for me, a 21-year-old coming straight out of my undergraduate program. But it is rewarding to be able to share our different viewpoints on life, our ideas, and our strategies to completing group or individual assignments.

Wisconsin Idea
I have always lived my life by the Wisconsin Idea, long before I knew it existed. To be able to share knowledge or personal experiences one gains in the classroom and then to be able to teach it to others is the best way to gain mastery of a topic while expanding the access and learning of people around you.

People would be surprised if they knew that…
I own a collection of lightsabers and have been featured three times on Badger Barstool dueling the evils that plague the UW–Madison campus.