Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Dan Spika, MPA

Dan Spika, far right, performed with The Madhatters, a men's acapella group, as an undergraduate student. Dan Spika, far right, performed with The Madhatters, a men's acapella group, as an undergraduate student.

Apple Valley, Minnesota

Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degrees in political science and economics, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 2017

Research interests
Poverty/social policy

Expected graduation
May 2018 (Accelerated Program)

How did you find out about the accelerated program?
From my advisor, the wonderfully influential Toni Landis.

What are your career goals?
My ultimate goal is to get to a position where I can move the needle on poverty policy.

How did you find out about the PAship with Tim Smeeding and what appealed to you about the position?
I was always interested in Professor Smeeding’s work. I kept seeing his name come up in poverty-related articles/briefs and knew I needed to talk to him. I went into his office one day, expressed interest in doing work for him in any capacity, and he said he could use me as a project assistant. I was incredibly lucky.

What are your responsibilities?
I do literature reviews, prepare memos/briefs, and assist in parameterization for statistical analyses, in addition to a variety of administrative tasks.

On- and/or off-campus activities
I was a member of the Madhatters men’s a cappella group for four years in undergrad and served as the organization's president. We performed across Wisconsin and the Midwest, where I made some of my favorite collegiate memories. During undergrad, I also was a tour guide for prospective students. 

How has the La Follette School changed the way you think about public policy?
It has given me a wonderfully broad and uniquely specific window into the way public policy is carried out in the United States. Inequity, Race, and Public Policy (PA 520) was a tremendous course that armed me with knowledge of how inequality is manifested structurally in federal/state policy (strongly recommend this course to any La Follette student!). Meanwhile, courses like Advanced Statistical Methods for Public Policy Analysis (PA 819) enable students to dive into the quantitative weeds of policy and use the powerful tools of statistical analysis to make policy predictions.

Anything else?
During the summer of 2016, I interned at ONE DC, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., that is devoted to racial and economic equity. 

People would be surprised to learn that ... 
I am working toward fluency in my ancestral language of Czech.