Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, January 13, 2014

Filer wants to use quantitative skills to address social problems

Angela Filer


After completing her Master of Public Affairs, Angela Filer became a budget and financial analyst with the Wisconsin Department of Administration's Division of Enterprise Technology.

Angela Filer's desire to create change by developing policies and programs that reduce social ills brought her to the La Follette School to earn a Master of Public Affairs degree.

"Every child should be able to grow up in a home without abuse," the first-year student says. "Every individual should have the opportunity and resources necessary to succeed in academics and in the workforce. No one should be forced to neglect their health problems because they cannot afford insurance. Homelessness should never be the only option left."

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in history and an array of certificates, Filer worked for Easter Seals Wisconsin, a nonprofit organization that helps people with disabilities gain greater independence. She also researched the best way that she could go about fulfilling her career goal of addressing local social problems.

Her research included an informational interview with the executive director of Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, a nonprofit organization that promotes the well-being of children and families in Wisconsin by advocating for effective and efficient health, education, and human service delivery systems.

Filer had been considering law school, but that interview turned her attention to public affairs and policy. "After research, personal reflection and advice, I decided that a public affairs degree was the best way for me to apply my skills and experiences to do some good in the world," Filer says.

The small size of the La Follette program means that professors are accessible and everyone in a class has the chance to give input. "When someone has a question, they can just ask it," Filer says. "It's not like being in a 400-person lecture hall. When one person speaks, the whole room hears. Even in econ and stats, the professors will ask for student contributions during lecture. That teaching practice makes the professors much more approachable and easier to talk to."

The program's small size means Filer and her peers get to know each other well. "We all form study groups and help one another out," she says. "Study groups are great because sometimes I am the teacher and sometimes I am the one learning from a fellow student who understands the week's material better. We're all in this together."

For her public management course, Filer examined implementation of a program to encourage and enable healthy eating and physical activity in La Crosse and Wood counties in western Wisconsin. "Our group looked at the relationships and communication between state government and nonprofits administering the program," she says.

Filer made use of the La Follette School's alumni network in setting up another informational interview, this one with 1989 alum Bob Nikolay, the budget director at the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. He introduced her to 2011 alum Adam Hartung and 2013 alum Megan Loritz. "They explained to me the differences between agencies and what budget analysis involves," Filer says. "They suggested I take advantage of the toolbox classes — Advanced Quantitative Methods for Public Policy and Cost-Benefit Analysis were two courses that they use a lot."

"The quantitative skills that the La Follette School is teaching me are what will secure me a job and help me to be good at that job," Filer says. "I plan to take as many quantitative and budgeting classes as possible because the quantitative skills are transferable. They are also skills that really set you apart as a job candidate."

When she graduates, Filer hopes to work in Wisconsin state government, and she is open to working for a nonprofit. "I am especially eager to work with public affairs relating to poverty and social policy," Filer says. "Gaps in current programs and changing conditions in society require constant creation and revision of public policy. I want to be a part of that positive change."

Last modified on Friday, July 17, 2015