Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, June 13, 2011

Carlson 'greens' Wisconsin through grant management, energy policy implementation

Nina Carlson Nina Carlson


After working at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission as an analyst specializing in energy efficiency and renewable energy issues, Nina Carlson became the deputy director at the University of Oklahoma's Center for Risk and Crisis Management and its sister center, the Center for Energy, Security and Society. Both centers perform applied social science research across a variety of policy areas, including energy, weather, and climate.

In her role as deputy director, Carlson contributes to the design and execution of survey research projects, oversees the management of contracts and grants held by the centers, leads the centers' strategic growth activities, and serves as an external liaison to public, private and non-profit groups. Carlson is also a board member of the Oklahoma Renewable Energy Council.

Nina Carlson is helping Wisconsin become greener and more energy efficient as the senior policy analyst and federal liaison for the Wisconsin State Energy Office. She is part of a small team that administers and reports to the federal government on more than $88 million in renewable energy and energy efficiency grants the state received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

"I report quarterly to the federal government on the ARRA grants, and I serve as a liaison between our office and the business, university and non-profit communities interested in clean energy technology," Carlson says. "I also track policy and technology developments in the energy field, and I develop and help with implementation of policy related to energy."

Carlson also assists with grant-writing that brings additional energy funding to Wisconsin. "One project I am proud of is co-writing a successful grant on behalf of the state to the National Governors Association," she says. "Through an NGA Policy Academy on Building Retrofits we brought together stakeholders and technical experts to develop a statewide plan to implement a building retrofit program in the hospital sector and for older housing stock. Once implemented, the plan will assist Wisconsin in providing more opportunities for residents and health-care facilities to realize savings through energy-efficient improvements."

Previously, Carlson worked for then-governor Jim Doyle as a policy advisor and then as senior policy advisor and grants coordinator. She became policy advisor to the governor right after graduating from the La Follette School in 2007 with a Master of Public Affairs. "Since beginning work for the state, I have written and presented policy memos to supervisors and state government leaders," Carlson says. "I have been involved in policy development for several economic development and green energy initiatives."

"My writing and policy analysis skills, as well as my knowledge of governmental and political processes, have helped me in both of my state jobs," she says. "Several classes I took at La Follette were critical in forming these professional skills, especially the courses in cost-benefit analysis, policy analysis and the public affairs workshop. The policy coursework is highly applied, and the program gives you great experiences working on actual policy problems, as well as working with actual government clients."

While a graduate student, Carlson interned with Forward Community Investments, a community development financial institution in Madison. Prior to her time in Wisconsin, Carlson worked as a research assistant and then research associate at the American Institutes for Research in Washington, D.C.

During her second year at La Follette, Carlson was a project assistant for professor Andrew Reschovsky. "Most of the work was related to education finance issues, which gave me additional experience working with extremely large datasets and presenting information in a clear fashion," Carlson says. "The research also provided me with insight into education funding at the school district level, which was helpful background knowledge when I was co-managing Wisconsin's Race to the Top Round 2 application while working in the Governor's Office in 2010."

When Carlson first enrolled at La Follette, she knew she was interested in state government, perhaps in social policy or economic development. "Beyond that, I did not have a particular specialization in mind," Carlson says. "I never imagined that four years later my specialty would be 'green' economic development, but I am enjoying this new challenge and see incredible opportunity for Wisconsin businesses and residents in this arena."

— article last updated July 19, 2014