Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Ian Pearson, MPA

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Hometown
Rockford, IL

Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degree in political science/nonprofit and NGO studies, Northern Illinois University, 2020

Professional/research interests
Education and social policy

Expected graduation date
May 2022

Age
23

Why an MPA?
As far back as I can remember, I have always been fascinated with how and why organizations make the decisions they do. As an undergraduate student government leader, I worked extensively within my university’s shared governance process. Between that experience and my majors in political science and nonprofit studies, that interest turned into a definite career goal. I chose to pursue my MPA to further develop the skills necessary to analyze and create effective policies within the government and nonprofit sectors.

Why the La Follette School?
I was drawn to the La Follette School for many reasons! First and foremost, the program has a stellar reputation for students interested in working on social policy, which is one of my primary interest areas. Secondly, I really appreciated the curricular flexibility to customize my classes and work experiences to specialize in one or multiple policy areas. Lastly, the La Follette School does a tremendous job promoting a welcoming environment and fostering a tight-knit cohort of students.

Career goals
I am increasingly interested in working for the U.S. Department of Education as a policy analyst or within the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). I have cultivated a love for higher education policy while at the La Follette School, and I really want to work to tackle some of the challenges confronted by the sector.

How is the La Follette School helping you meet your career goals?
I have been able to take several La Follette School courses related to various methods for policy analysis and paired those with classes in the Department Education Policy Studies and Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. A La Follette School alumnus also connected me with an internship at Madison College, where I worked on higher education policy challenges.

Summer internship
This summer, I completed two internships. The first was as a data analyst at Madison College, where I visualized and analyzed enrollment data trends. My second internship was working as a constituent services intern for State Senator Kelda Roys.

Advice for prospective La Follette School students?
Even if you have an existing interest in a certain policy area or career, use the first year at the La Follette School to try different policy fields and job skills. The flexibility of the program allows you to adjust your class load around what you learn. For me, completing a project for Introduction to Public Management (PA 878) completely changed my career interest from working for Congress to working within the Department of Education, perhaps with the OIG. Since then, I have focused my electives within education administration. 

La Follette School Student Association involvement
This semester, I have had the pleasure to serve as the treasurer for the La Follette School Student Association. I have enjoyed working with the other board members to plan our signature events like graduation and find opportunities to improve the organization! 

Anything else?
Feel free to reach out. I am more than happy to talk about the program and my experience!