Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Eric Hepler, MPA

Eric Hepler (back row, fourth from left) was one of 25 graduate-level students selected for the competitive Chicago Mayoral Fellowship. Eric Hepler (back row, fourth from left) was one of 25 graduate-level students selected for the competitive Chicago Mayoral Fellowship.

Rochester, New York

Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degree in political science, University of Rochester, 2014

Research interests
Poverty and housing, government performance

La Follette School Fellowship recipient, cum laude at University of Rochester (New York), Eagle Scout

Expected graduation date
May 2018


Summer internship
I received a Chicago Mayoral Fellowship, where we worked on anything that came to us, running the gamut from city budget issues, governance and administration, to researching different city, county, state, and national policies. While I was assigned two long-term projects to complete during the summer, I took on other projects that had turnarounds as short as two hours or as long as a month.

Sample project
Chicago is trying to build a trail and a series of parks along each of its rivers, but it doesn’t have a formal mechanism or a precedent for doing this. Working with a partner, I conducted a series of phone interviews with officials in several cities to assemble a best practices guide and recommendations for developing, governing, and funding riverfront development.

What experiences and skills helped you get the internship?
Having strong written and verbal communication skills. In classes at La Follette, you learn that brevity is key: written assignments demand succinct, clear work.

Why an MPA?
During my undergraduate studies, I worked at a municipal consulting firm (Center for Government Research) that worked with local communities to improve government services. I enjoyed the work as well as knowing that we were improving people’s lives. I determined that a public affairs degree would give me the skills that I’d need to pursue that line of work as a career.

Why the La Follette School?
After doing my under at a smaller university, I liked the idea of going to a small graduate program. The La Follette School has given me opportunities to get to know and work with scholars that I otherwise would not have.

Career goals
I’m interested in government performance and efficiency. I’d like to work in a performance management capacity in a city or state government.

Project assistantship
I’m working with Director Don Moynihan on a few projects related to the use of performance information in government and nonprofit organizations. His research asks how to best motivate public managers – by providing carrots and sticks or by activating intrinsic motivation for the public good.

Public management is a relatively small field, and innovative research positions (like this opportunity through the Kohl Research Competition) are few and far between. The Kohl Award is helping me connect with something that might otherwise be out of reach.

What courses have you taken in which you’ve done work for real clients?
In the Cost-Benefit Analysis class, I am working on a project for Midwest Environmental advocates. We are trying to evaluate the economic impact of different air quality standards in Wisconsin. It has been instructive to see all the different analyses that can capture the social, health, and economic impacts of different policy questions.

The Wisconsin Idea
It’s one reason why I came here. We have the opportunity to interact with researchers, administrators, and policymakers. The La Follette School provides us with practical experience as well as a rigorous education.

What did you do before enrolling at the La Follette School?
I took two years off, during which I worked in a bakery and housesat.