Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Ian Korpel, MPA, BESR

Ian Korpel, MPA, BESR

Solon, Iowa

Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degree in public administration and political science, minor in business, Buena Vista University, Iowa, 2015

Professional/research interests
Performance management, local government, finance

Client-based cost-benefit analysis presentation to large community audience, Eagle Scout, two years’ work experience with the City of Madison Data Initiative.

Expected graduation date
May 2018

Why public affairs?
After graduating from undergrad, I worked for the City of Iowa City. I found that the work was fascinating, although I was not as involved in the mechanics of the analysis as I would have liked. The La Follette program offered me hard skills that would enable me to perform the complex analysis and program review that I was most interested in.

Why the La Follette School?
Honestly, I chose La Follette out of pure chance. I wanted to move to Madison for personal reasons and applied to a single master’s program. Fortunately, I was accepted and after some preliminary research, I found that it was a good match. The analytical skills-based approach to teaching in coordination with the small class sizes have been hugely beneficial to my personal and professional career goals.

Why a certificate in Business, Environment, and Social Responsibility (BESR)?
Again, I have to be honest. I heard this description as “Business Environment, and Social Responsibility. I was under the impression that the certificate was based one business practices and integration into community and overall market-driven analysis. Aka, “Business Environment.” However, it is actually strongly focused on interactions between businesses and the actual environment, though there is also analysis of societal pressures. Once I realized my mistake, I figured, “hey, why not. I think nature is interesting too.” Though further removed from my specific area of study, many of the classes were able to be counted for both programs, and I found it enjoyable to be involved with another school and program outside of La Follette.

Career goals
My current career goal is to become a city manager of a midsized municipality. Though this is many years off, I believe the journey there will provide me with unique experiences that may even shift my path. If so, I am open and excited to see what the future holds!

How have your La Follette School courses and/or experiences set you on the path to meeting your career goals?
It was my experience that La Follette does not necessarily tailor its courses around specific goals such as mine. A much more common focus for courses is a policy area such as healthcare or education. My strategy was to take skills-based classes from La Follette and supplement my education with my work with the City of Madison. This would provide me with learning opportunities specific to local government, as well as the analytical skills I originally wanted to acquire in a master’s program.

Work experience
I worked for the City of Madison for the two years I have lived here. This was a position that I identified and applied for on my own, though I was able to use it to get internship credit with La Follette.

Primary job responsibilities
I work closely with the data management initiative and am responsible for designing and creating data visualization dashboards for internal and public consumption. Additionally, I am a key analyst in identifying agency processes for improvement and implementing good data collection strategies.

Sample work project
The City began the performance management initiative by a massive dataset inventory analysis. This included hundreds of datasets that agencies track, manage, or use. I helped train staff, implement the program, and review the output.

What experiences and skills helped you get the job?
The two key components that I believe helped me get this position are that I had worked in Washington DC, and that I took a year to work in local government after receiving my undergrad degree. In my interview, I explained that this experience gave me a unique perspective of government. Secondly, my tech expertise was vital. No matter what type of job you are interested in getting, everyone needs a basic understanding of how Excel and computers work.

Client-based projects
For Cost-Benefit Analysis (PA 881), I was on a team that analyzed the value of consolidating two emergency medical service (EMS) districts near Madison (Deer Grove and Cambridge). The analysis was extremely difficult and time consuming, though overall I feel it was an excellent learning experience and gives me something to point to in job interviews.

For Workshop in Public Affairs (PA 869), our team conducted an analysis of strategies to counter the psychiatrist shortage in Wisconsin. We utilized methods learned from Professor Tim Smeeding to design an array of potential solutions and compare them to necessary policy goals and objectives.

La Follette School mentors
Professor Tim Smeeding has been an excellent contact for me in providing professional and personal advice. I also have to give a shout-out to a friend of the La Follette School; Kara Kratowicz with the City of Madison has been a fantastic mentor to me the last few years.

Advice for prospective La Follette School students
Don’t count on getting a project assistantship or teaching assistantship. If you haven’t taken the time to understand loans and finances (as many undergrads avoid), do so before you accept.

Your classmates are not only friends but also future colleagues and professional networks. I would advise that every student (even the introverts out there) make a clear effort to get to know the cohort.
If you haven’t lived in Madison before, take advantage of the city! I have never lived in a place with more to do in both the summer and winter. Also, the lakes are beautiful.

Most challenging La Follette School experience
My Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) project was most definitely my most challenging experience. Our analysis was riddled with obstacles both substantively and socially. However, it also was my most valuable lesson at La Follette.

Most rewarding La Follette School experience
My CBA project was also my most rewarding experience. Though extremely difficult, I learned a lot about teamwork, CBA, and myself along the way. Though intimidating, I recommend everyone take this class during their time at La Follette.

How has the La Follette School changed the way you think about public policy?
My education has shifted my own thought about public policy from, “Why is this good/bad” to, “how is this implemented, and why that way”? I believe this is a fantastic shift in thinking. My first reaction is to look one layer further than I had before! This provides me with unique insight that I hope will make me a better leader in the future.

The Wisconsin Idea
I am a small-town Iowa boy, and when I first heard about the Wisconsin Idea my first reaction was, “good grief what have those Wisconsinites come up with now.” Even today, I am not sure I fully understand the message, but I think I know the general intent. So I will say this much; La Follette is excellent at providing real-world skills, connections, and experiences. Almost every week, students are invited to discussions, lectures, special guests, bonus trainings, and so much more. This exposure, almost more than my coursework, has been a fantastic learning experience. So, if the Wisconsin Idea is to tie education to the real world, the La Follette School nails it.