Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Friday, November 8, 2013

Emmel looks forward to exploring big picture

Ben Emmel


After completing his Master of Public Affairs, Ben Emmel became an analyst with the U.S. Government Accountability Office in Washington, D.C.

Emmel was the La Follette School Student Association's alumni coordinator for the 2014-15 school year. In the summer of 2014 he interned with the U.S. Government Accountability Office in Washington, D.C. In March 2015 he became a finalist in the Presidential Management Fellowship program.

Ben Emmel is looking forward to gaining more skills to help people.

"I am interested more in the bigger picture, in issues and public policy," the first-year student says. "A master's degree in public affairs will help me acquire skills to understand the data and reasoning behind public policies."

Emmel comes to the La Follette School after working for more than a year as a program associate with the Wisconsin Technical College System's Office of Instruction. "I helped coordinate the process through which the different colleges modify or start a program," Emmel says. "Working with occupational experts, the office presented programs to the governing board, who judged them based on the opportunities for students and industry, as well as cost effectiveness and growth."

The job was a good introduction to curriculum, training and policies related to education and labor, especially how local and state governments can find solutions to help students and employers, Emmel says. Recent debates about the state's labor needs, including how to connect students and graduates with employment made it an exciting time to be with the technical college system. "I liked being part of the larger discussion of the purpose of education," Emmel adds. "After working at the system, I can better place the issues and challenges facing workforce development and higher education into an understandable context."

However, Emmel wants to do more. The La Follette School provides the resources for Emmel to explore multiple career paths. One possibility is becoming a budget or policy analyst in state government or post-secondary education.

Another option is government relations. "I enjoy telling the story of the technical colleges and how they help employers," Emmel says. "I find the opportunity to combine data and statistics with meaningful anecdotes and stories fascinating, especially when it can make a difference on a local or state level."

The La Follette School faculty and the training they offer will help him develop skills to collect and interpret data, he says. "The quantitative skills that La Follette alumni gain are in high demand these days, especially with the focus on evidence-based practices. Policymakers want to know the outcomes of their policies."

Emmel graduated from Seton Hall University in 2011 majoring in theology and philosophy, thinking he would become a Catholic priest. He then spent some time in Rome, Italy, and found life was taking him a different direction, but he still wanted to work in a public service career. He returned to Madison, where he grew up, and worked in an information technology job before landing at the technical college system.

His work experience helped him get a project assistantship with the campus Design Lab and Digital Humanities Initiative that helps students conceive and create digital media such as video, blogs or presentations communicate ideas and information in academic projects. In addition to providing experience in marketing, communication and design, Emmel expects the work to immerse him in another big picture debate on how technology is changing education.

Emmel also won a scholarship funded by friends of the La Follette School. "I appreciate the generosity of donors to the La Follette School," Emmel says. "As I begin my graduate education, I'm encouraged by the support of alumni and friends of the school. It's a real testament to the reputation of La Follette in the Midwest."

Emmel says he appreciates the small school within the large university. "I am attracted to the small learning environment like La Follette and to the community of students and professors that La Follette affords"

"I am also pleased that the research and analysis that I will be doing will help agencies and organizations in Wisconsin," Emmel adds. "I find that really appealing. As a lifelong Wisconsin resident, I hope to contribute to public service and help improve the quality and efficiency of government services here in my community."

Last modified on Friday, July 17, 2015