Graduate students learn from alumni working in Chicago

La Follette School graduate students pose for a group photo during the trip to Chicago
Students after their visit with staff at the American Institutes for Research during their two-day trip to Chicago.

In January, more than 30 La Follette School students took a road trip down to Chicago to meet and learn from alumni and their colleagues working on a variety of public policy issues at public, private, and nonprofit organizations. The two-day trip included site visits with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the American Institutes for Research (AIR), the Chicago Public Schools, and Deloitte. It also included an alumni and friends reception and an alumni panel where four graduates shared their professional experiences and how La Follette helped prepare them for their careers. The visit was made possible by generous donations from alumni and other supporters of the La Follette School. Here are a few reflections shared by alumni and current students during the trip.

“Our work is a lot like what you’re doing in grad school. You’re doing a deep dive into a topic, learning a lot about it and then developing a report. My work on the CBA and capstone projects in particular prepared me well for GAO work.”
– Kate Amoroso (MPA ’07) at the GAO

“The skills I honed at La Follette helped a lot. Being able to work collaboratively is important. Being able to write well is important. Being able to say that I had done work with real clients was very impactful.”
– Ryan C. Eisner (MPA ’13) at AIR

Students listen to a presentation at the American Institutes for Research
Ryan C. Eisner (MPA ‘13) discusses the work he does as a senior researcher for AIR and how La Follette helped prepare him for his career

“We’re looking to hire people like you. The type of work you’re doing at La Follette is great preparation for analyst work at the GAO.”
– Brittaini Maul (MPA ’19) at the GAO

“I learned that the private sector isn’t as scary as I thought it would be. I initially didn’t consider consulting as something I would be interested in. But after a couple of conversations these past few days, it might be something I would consider down the line.”
– Luis Navarrette, first-year MPA student

Students sit together to eat during a reception
Students enjoy the alumni and friends reception after their first day of site visits

“My capstone was basically the job I was hired for when I came to AIR.”
– Max Pardo (MPA ’17) at AIR

“The alumni panel was definitely a highlight for me. It’s nice to hear from people what their path looked like and being reminded that any next step can help get you where you ultimately want to go. It was pretty reassuring. And I also feel like it kind of opened me up to other career options that I hadn’t really considered.”
– Johanna Schmidt, second-year MPA student

“Before this trip, I was mostly focused on sticking in Madison. But after talking with the alumni and hearing their experiences, I feel that I could also leave Madison and live in other places and pursue other jobs after graduation.”
– Grace Stallworth, second-year MPA student

Students watch a panel of alumni presenting
Students listen to alumni Michael Zell (MPA ’20), Rob Stupar (MPA ’15), Emily Plagman-Frank (MPA ’10), and Mitch Arvidson (MIPA ’20) during the alumni panel

“It was really interesting getting to know the La Follette alumni, and networking and connecting. I think one of the biggest highlights was hearing their stories, where they came from, why they chose La Follette, and where they progressed from there.”
– Dominique Villaseñor, second-year MPA student

“I really enjoyed the meeting with the Government Accountability Office and the alums that we met there. I didn’t realize that they had such a broad telecommunications policy sector, which I’m really interested in. I had never thought about taking that interest into the public sector, so that was interesting.”
– Megan Westerman, first-year MPA student

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