Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, December 30, 2019

Charles Pratt, MPA

Charles Pratt Charles Pratt

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Hometown
Groton, NY – small town outside of Ithaca, NY (far from New York City)

Undergraduate education
Bachelor of science degree in emergency medicine, University of Pittsburgh; associate of science degree in nursing, Community College of Allegheny County

Professional/research interests
Public safety, labor unions, healthcare

Expected graduation date
May 2022

Why an MPA?
In September 2017, I moved to Madison from Pittsburgh, PA, to work as a City of Madison police officer. About halfway through the police academy, I decided that I wanted to start a graduate program, and because I had realized how important UW–Madison was in the community, I wanted to go to UW. Public affairs seemed like the best opportunity for me to learn the workings of my field from a broader and higher-level prospective.

Why the La Follette School?
The main thing that drew me to the La Follette School was the flexible curriculum. In my previous degrees, the curriculum was always very specialized and rigid, and I really wanted a more liberal arts style education from my graduate studies. I have really enjoyed the ability to take courses throughout the University on a multitude of subjects I find interesting.

How has the La Follette School changed the way you think about public policy?
Although I have a great to deal of experience to draw from, the La Follette School has given me a much broader understanding of public policy in my work and as a general citizen. This better understanding has allowed me to overcome some biases my experiences have formed as well as better articulate problems with policies.

How has your experience as a paramedic and police officer shaped your views on public policy?
It certainly has had large effect on my policy views. My path to policy studies is interesting because I learned all my initial policy knowledge through experiential learning, and only now am I learning the theory and analysis my experiences have been based on. These experiences have allowed me to gain a much deeper understanding of public policy that I could have not obtained with academics alone.

Career goals
Good question; my wife says I change my mind a lot. I can certainly see the boots on the ground, street-level work getting old, so switching to a more administrative capacity could definitely entice me, whether that’s in public safety, healthcare, or a labor union, I have no idea.

Academic/career mentors
Mo O’Connor, David Wright-Racette, and the rest of the La Follette School staff have been very helpful in a litany of hurdles that come with going to school while working fulltime.

Advice for prospective La Follette School students
I would advise prospective students to really use coursework not as a steppingstone or means to an end, but as an opportunity to learn something of interest to you. My best experiences in courses, irrelevant of grades, have been projects. Also, you will have to relearn and learn many new things throughout your professional career, so don’t get hung up on specifics.

Most challenging and rewarding La Follette School experiences
I would like to echo one of my fellow part-time student and full-time worker La Follette School students, Corissa Mosher, and say that completing each semester is the most challenging and rewarding experience, working while going to graduate school requires such a great amount of time management it so rewarding to complete a semester and have some time to relax a little.

Volunteer activities
I volunteer as a firefighter/paramedic for the Monona Fire Department, and I am involved with my union at work as well as some other volunteer initiatives as they come up.

Anything else?
It has been really nice to share my experience at La Follette School with my sister Eleanor Pratt. We haven’t taken a class together since high school and our careers have taken us in very different directions, so it was very random and remarkable that we would attend the same graduate program at the same time.

People would be surprised if they knew that I …
I was a competitive speed skater and figure skater as a kid, and my childhood sports hero was Apolo Anton Ohno.