Internships bridge gap between academic knowledge and real-world application

Internships offer La Follette students the opportunity to apply their skills while doing hands-on work, networking with professionals, expanding their contacts, and gaining insights into the field. Through internship work, students can explore their interests and refine their future career goals. These five La Follette graduate and undergraduate certificate students completed internships focused on public policy, gaining real-world experience in professional policy fields.

Nick Charlton

Nick Charlton stands on a balcony overlooking a medieval town in the winter.Last summer, health policy certificate student Nick Charlton completed a health policy internship with the Centene Corporation in Washington, D.C. Charlton worked alongside government relations and business development teams to help explain new bills and their effects on the company, including Medicaid and Medicare legislation. “Learning from colleagues with decades of experience in the American healthcare industry is an invaluable experience, and I hope to grow the professional relationships I started this summer,” Charlton says. His biggest takeaway from the internship was navigating the vast bureaucracy throughout the Medicaid Managed Care and Medicare Advantage programs. According to Charlton, the La Follette School’s coursework prepared him for the often heavily jargoned discussions of health policy. Working with the Centene Corporation confirmed Charlton’s desire to further his public policy education and get an MPH or MPA. Charlton recommends the internship experience for any student interested in the intersection between health policy and government-funded healthcare. “The industry has a need for young professionals who think of health-policy issues holistically,” Charlton says.

Alex DeSena

Portrait of Alex DeSenaOver the summer, MPA student Alex DeSena worked within the City of Sun Prairie’s Planning Division as their first planning intern. DeSena worked on projects with the Division’s housing and equitable development planner, focused on addressing the housing shortage crisis increasingly impacting the region. In her role she worked on several projects, including creating an affordable housing target area map for the city using spatial analysis software, and developing incentives for affordable development projects. DeSena also assisted the city in efforts of a new housing education and advocacy group, the Sun Prairie Housing Coalition, aimed to support and mobilize a diverse group of community members to work together on local housing-related advocacy. “My professional background is in social services within the nonprofit sector, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to gain housing and equitable development-related experience within local government through a planning lens,” Desena says. According to DeSena, policy research skills she acquired in La Follette courses prepared her for the tasks of finding sources and precedents from other communities, systematically analyzing options, and crafting creative policy solutions. Through her internship role, DeSena was able to complement her La Follette coursework and enhance her understanding of the material by immersing herself in real-world professional applications. Because of her summer internship experience, DeSena feels much more prepared to pursue a career in the realms of local government, housing policy, and equitable development.

Cuauhtemoc Guizar

Portrait of Cuauhtemoc GuizarCuauhtemoc Guizar, a public policy certificate student, interned as a summer consultant with management consulting firm Guidehouse in their State and Local Government Practice in Chicago. In his role, Guizar conducted in-depth research and analysis of government policies, assisted in the development of a data reporting strategy for a county annual treasury report, and performed quantitative analysis and market research. One of Guizar’s most memorable takeaways of the internship was completing a collaborative capstone project involving a business development opportunity related to energy, sustainability, and infrastructure. At the end of the program, Guizar and interns from across the country traveled to Boston to present the project to senior firm leadership. “I was surprised that I was encouraged to pursue projects and engage with work that most interested me,” Guizar says. “My team was nothing but supportive and provided me with the tools and opportunities to excel. I had the opportunity to connect one-on-one with many members of my team discussing both professional and personal experiences.” Guizar’s experience reaffirmed his interest in public policy and state and local government affairs, as well as introduced management consulting as a potential career option he had not previously considered. Guizar recommends the internship to students interested in public sector consulting.

Genevieve Kell

Genevieve Kell stands in front of a view of a city skyline with skyscrapersPublic policy certificate student Genevieve Kell worked at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which manages the state’s wildlife, forests, parks, air, and water, while promoting a sustainable environment and a full range of outdoor opportunities. In Kell’s role as an air management specialist intern, she shadowed many DNR employees, traveling around the state for evaluations of major emission source facilities and visiting local air monitoring sites. Kell also assisted in writing air emission permits/exemptions and updated federal emission technology records. “The most memorable takeaway from my internship experience was shadowing an experienced compliance engineer on the yearly evaluation of a major production facility,” Kell says. “During this time, my co-intern and I were able to look at a year’s worth of emissions documentation for a facility, ask questions, and gain a better understanding of how policy dictated by the DNR applied to corporations and its effect on their production methods.” In her work, Kell was able to observe the cause and effect in the actions of her team, even in minor changes to policy. “Seeing how the government work our office was doing was used to uphold environmental protection regulations reinforced the importance of policy in protecting our natural resources.” Alongside her internship, Kell took PA 327, an administrative internship course, which helped her set goals throughout her professional work and prompted her to connect with mentors and coworkers at the DNR. “This course pushed me to do and learn more than the duties assigned to me throughout my internship and helped me better understand the value in public policy work,” Kell said. Kell’s summer experience has inspired her to pursue more advanced public policy coursework and seek further professional experience in policy-related fields. She strongly recommends the internship for future students because of its flexibility, opportunity for hands-on experience, and supportive work environment.

Muhammad Rehan

Portrait of Muhammad RehanMIPA student Muhammed Rehan interned with the National Assembly of Pakistan, his work spanning areas including international relations, economic affairs, constitutional and parliamentary matters, and socio-political developments. Rehan worked with the Research Wing, an impartial division of the National Assembly Secretariat dedicated to providing expert analysis and information to the legislature. He also collaborated with the special committee for Afghan refugees and witnessed the dissolution of the incumbent government during the National Assembly’s final session. Last summer, Rehan was able to use his La Follette education in his work, applying concepts learned in his classes to provide direct input on policies. According to Rehan, his La Follette courses helped to prepare him for the experience by offering valuable and eye-opening international policy exposure, which gave him insight into the impact of national and international policies on the world. Rehan was able to apply policy skills cultivated at La Follette while participating in group exercises centered on the Sudanese Refugee Crisis. “My summer internship granted me access to pivotal government documents and policy discussions within the National Parliament,” Rehan says. “Collaborating closely with committees such as those dedicated to human rights, Afghan-Pakistan relations, refugees, and women’s issues expanded my knowledge base and skill set beyond measure.”

– Story by Clare Brogan

Subscribe to our newsletter