Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Saturday, March 20, 2021

Dana Nielsen, MPA

Dana Nielsen, MPA

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Oakdale, MN

Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degree in public administration and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, UW–La Crosse, May 2020

Professional/research interests
State/local government, higher education, gendered and racial violence

Graduated with highest honors from UW–La Crosse, where I also served as vice president of the Student Association and organized Elect Her workshop.

Expected graduation date
May 2022

Why an MPA?
During undergrad, many of my class projects involved analyzing a policy, and through that, I noticed a lack of intersectionality. I often learned about policies that had good intentions, but fell short because they ignored the experiences of underrepresented communities and thus caused more harm than good. This is a problem I want to help government avoid in the future. Additionally, through student government I saw the value of working closely with the people you are representing. This led me to want to end up in state or local government because you are far more accessible to the community, which allows for more opportunities to listen and learn.

Why the La Follette School?
Having attended UW–La Crosse for undergrad, I was familiar with the UW System, had visited Madison many times, and loved the area (there’s always something fun going on in the downtown area—when there’s not a pandemic, that is). The La Follette School offers more freedom in course schedules by allowing students to take electives (even in other departments) rather than having our schedules structured for us. This was important for me because I wanted to keep up with my women’s studies background.

Advice for prospective La Follette School students?
Visit the campus and Madison area if you get the chance! It is a beautiful city and everyone you meet is friendly and welcoming. Even if you can’t visit in person, find someone who is in the area and can Facetime you and show you around that way. That’s what I did and how I ultimately decided the La Follette School was the right fit!

Most challenging La Follette School experience
The required Introduction to Statistical Methods (PA 818) course. The last time I took a math class was three years prior, so it was a struggle, but I put in the work and came out with a grade that was far better than I expected. Plus, it helps knowing everyone else was struggling a bit, too, and I wasn’t alone.

Most rewarding La Follette School experience
Simply just having the opportunity to continue my education at such a great program!

La Follette School Student Association involvement
I am vice president of the La Follette School Student Association (LSSA). I love being a part of student government! Not only is it a great way to meet people with shared interests, but it also is a wonderful way to learn more about the School. Playing a role in ensuring students have a positive experience is extremely rewarding.

Anything else?
I have an older sister and brother-in-law who live in the area, and while I don’t have a pet myself, I frequently watch their puppy, Doolin. I love traveling and the outdoors! My family goes on a trip to northern Minnesota every year to hike, and a few years ago I spent a summer in Tuscania, Italy. My hope is to go backpacking in Europe after I graduate from the La Follette School. My love for travel also influences my love for food. I enjoy cooking/baking and am never one to shy away from trying something new!