Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Eric La Nguyen, MPA

Eric La Nguyen, MPA

Portland, Oregon
Honolulu, Hawaii
Savage, Minnesota

Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degree in nonprofit and community leadership, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Expected graduation
May 2018

Research interests
Immigration, aging, and social issues impacting the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community

I’ve help raise over $1 million for charitable causes, once got over 10,000 likes for an non-governmental organization, and have read the entire Harry Potter series more than eight times.

Why an MPA?
I worked indirectly with policymakers at my previous job and knew that I needed more technical skills so I came back to UW-Madison for an MPA from La Follette.

Why the La Follette School?
I liked the small class sizes and the cohort system. I also knew I’d be in a predominantly white space and it had been a good five years since I worked in this type of environment. Working in Washington, D.C., I was in an AANHPI bubble but knew that later in my career that wouldn’t always be the case. On top of that I couldn’t resist the Madison charm.

Career goals
To be the Chief of Staff for future President Michelle Obama.

How have your La Follette School courses and/or experiences set you on the path to meeting your career goals?
Learning the theories behind policymaking and public management has been really eye opening. There were so many times in class where I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh, that totally happened to me at our organization!”

Project assistantship
One of my jobs is as a project assistant with the Obtaining Necessary Parity through Academic Rigor (ONPAR) project through the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER). Its mission is to improve educational outcomes for diverse student populations, make a positive impact on education practice, and connect academic researchers with educators.

What advice would you give to prospective La Follette School students?
Get a group to study with for your statistics course. The class goes by smoothly if you do so, but those long nights spent studying will build friendships.

Most rewarding experience at the La Follette School
Honestly, it’s meeting so many smart and engaging classmates. There are so many contrasting backgrounds and policy interests that I didn’t even know existed.

What did you do before enrolling at the La Follette School?
Ask people for money. (I worked in development.)

Off-campus activities
I’ve been volunteering with the Catalyst Foundation for the last 11 years. We work with adoptees from Vietnam and facilitate identity building and cultural understanding programs. My roles and responsibilities include social media content, volunteer coordinator, and any surprise tasks that come up when you’re surrounded by 180 kids.

Anything else?
I’m the son of Vietnamese refugees who came here in 1977 and 1979. They have worked every single blue-collar job you can name. Seeing them sacrifice so much for me and my siblings drives me to climb this academic and professional ladder. Not only sacrificing opportunities but also their bodies. Whenever I feel sorry for myself and complain about working nearly full-time while going to school full-time I remind myself of the things my parents gave up for me to be here and get back to work.

People would be surprised if they knew that I ...
Once played a mime in a musical.