Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, July 30, 2012

Chase explores law, policy

Stephanie Chase


In 2013, Stephanie Chase joined the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Madison as an associate attorney.

Stephanie Chase knew she wanted to earn graduate degrees in public policy and law. So she and her father took a road trip that combined visits to major baseball league ballparks and Big 10 universities.

"Once I met Mary Treleven, I knew the La Follette School would be a good place for me," Chase says, noting that the student services coordinator gave her a warm welcome, "and I really wanted a joint policy-law program, plus the opportunity to explore energy policy was a bonus."

After Chase graduated from South Dakota State University in Brookings, she went to work for the Environmental Law and Policy Center, helping the organization expand into South Dakota and other areas with its promotion of clean energy, sound transportation, wild and natural places, and sustainable business. "I spent 10 weeks in the center's Chicago office and then moved to the Wisconsin office in Madison," says Chase, who graduated from the La Follette School in 2012. "I would travel back to South Dakota for meetings."

During her first year in La Follette's Master of Public Affairs degree program, Chase worked half-time with the Environmental Law and Policy Center and went back to full time during the summer. She also held a project assistantship for a semester with the Center for Financial Security.

Those experiences built on what she learned as a college student interning with South Dakota Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. "I took a class from her when I was a freshman at SDSU, and she was running in a special election, so after she won, I emailed her to ask if I could intern with her," Chase says. "I was an intern in her D.C. office for two summers and then I worked on her 2006 campaign for one summer."

As for graduate school, the La Follette School and the University of Wisconsin – Madison did end up being a good place for Chase. The city was familiar and comfortable — she lived in town as a child while her father was completing his Ph.D. In addition, the large campus offers a dual law and policy degree. "I wanted both degrees because they complement each other and will allow me flexibility in my career path," Chase says.

One of the best aspects of the La Follette School, Chase says, is the flexibility of the program and the variety of policy areas students can explore. The university's many resources meant she could add a class or two in environmental studies.

Chase also appreciates La Follette's small size. "At Wisconsin, I liked being able to take advantage of the small program on a big campus," she says. "At La Follette, people know who you are."

Chase served as secretary of the La Follette School Student Association. She applied her interest in renewable energies by organizing the 2012 Wisconsin International Law Journal symposium in March 2012.

Chase will put her dual degree in law and policy to work as a clerk with South Dakota Supreme Court Justice Glen A. Severson. The experience builds on her summer between her first and second her years of law school, when she interned with South Dakota's State Court Administrator's Office. She has found that "being a lawyer who is not afraid of the word 'regression' is helpful." In addition, the legal world is beginning to use quantitative methods more often to determine whether a law is effective, Chase says.

Once her one-year court clerkship is complete, Chase isn't sure yet what direction she will take, but working in public policy is her long-term goal, especially in clean energy.

Investment in green energies to advance economic development has brought hope to small South Dakota towns. For example, Howard built a rural learning center that supported businesses that manufacture wind turbines and process organic beef. "On the weekend, the center is a place for weddings and other events, but during the week, employers use it for training," Chase says. "I find that kind of project interesting."

Whatever her ultimate direction, Chase will keep her commitment to public service. "I've had a lot of great opportunities growing up in South Dakota and attending school in Wisconsin," Chase says. "I'm excited to use the skills I've learned here to work on clean energy projects that benefit communities and the environment."