Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Thursday, March 15, 2018

Isabelle Selep, MPA

Isabelle Selep, MPA

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies with certificates in education policy and educational services, UW–Madison, 2016

Expected graduate date
Spring 2018

Why an MPA?
In undergrad, I was really interested in education policy and I decided to venture out and take other policy courses. My junior year I took the Family Perspectives in Policy, and I was able to see that there was so much more that interested me than just education. I knew I didn’t want to limit myself to a master's in education policy so I applied to public policy and public administration programs to get a bigger base of knowledge.

Why the La Follette School?
Being in Madison as an undergrad, I already knew and loved the University. It wasn't until I began researching programs that I learned more about La Follette and the national reputation it held. I realized how lucky I was that I wouldn't have to move far away to get a great education with the world-class faculty here.

Career goals
I have always viewed education as the most important thing a person can have next to their health, and I would love to grow into a career where I can help bring quality education and services to less fortunate populations. Whether I am working in state/local government or in higher education, I want to work with students and provide them with resources in and outside of school so they can succeed.

How have your La Follette School courses and/or experiences set you on the path to meeting your career goals?
La Follette has definitely provided me with a solid base of knowledge to fall into any career. I want to focus on education, but I now have the skills to succeed whether I work for the Department of Public Health or a nonprofit fighting climate change. Performance Management was one of my favorite courses because it was interesting but it also gave me the confidence to step into a management position.

Project assistantship
UW-Madison Budget Office – Budget and Policy Analyst
I was drawn to the position because it mentioned education policy and I knew budgeting is important to education but was something I had little knowledge on. I was excited to learn a lot from this opportunity. And I have learned a lot about UW–Madison’s budget. I am learning how the budget breaks down to each college, department, and faculty member. I have done a lot of data organization, calculations of budgets across campus, designing a new website, and running budget requests by department. I have done just a little bit of everything in this position, which keeps it exciting and new!

PAship project
I have spent a lot of time organizing and producing budget allocation reports. I collect various budget items by department and compile them into binders by year. It sounds boring but there is a lot that goes into it. Each item in the budget has a memo and a file of its own so being organized is a must.

What experiences and skills helped you get the PAship?
In undergrad, I worked at the UW Hospital as an Administrative Assistant and in that position, I had to do various tasks from submitting expense reports, sorting mail, and planning and scheduling interviews between 30 endocrine surgery fellowship applicants and six surgeons. I am comfortable being thrown into various tasks of all skill levels and that is what my boss at the budget office wanted. She wanted someone who would be flexible and willing to submit massive campus-wide reports one day and then scan documents for a few hours the next.

What courses have you taken in which you’ve done work for real clients?
I have worked with clients in two of my classes at La Follette. I worked with the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators, for the Performance Management class, and with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for the Workshop class. I also worked with a local nonprofit organization, Logan's Heart and Smiles, for the Project Management class I took through the School of Library and Information studies. It has been such a rewarding experience being able to work directly with clients and put all the skills and knowledge from classes to use. It is a great way to get applicable experience for future jobs.

Advice to prospective La Follette School students?
Don't be afraid to take classes outside of La Follette. Your experience here is what you make of it. If you want to rack up your technical skills, you can take Advanced Stats, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Program Evaluation, and Macroeconomics. If you want to take more legal classes, then by all means do that. La Follette gives you room to explore different departments and classes on campus so make sure to take advantage of that.

Most challenging La Follette School experience
Trying to balance everything. There are a lot of group projects, and I was working two jobs my entire first year. So balancing classes, two jobs, group meetings, a social life, and other responsibilities would have to be my most challenging experience.

Most rewarding La Follette School experience
The most rewarding experience is getting to know all the people here. Students, staff, and faculty all have such different backgrounds and interests. You can learn from anyone, and getting to know my peers has helped me become more well-rounded since I hear about recent news on their policy interests that I would otherwise not know.

How has the La Follette School changed the way you think about public policy?
Is it bad to say I am more confused about public policy now than ever before? Just kidding. But, I see how hard it is to make real impactful change. There are a lot of politics that go along with policy at the federal level as well as the state and local level. It does happen everywhere and everyday so things are always changing. Sometimes they move forward and then sometimes they move backward. Public policy is more about dancing than anything else, in my opinion. But I like dancing so I still like public policy.

The Wisconsin Idea
Being an alum, I heard the Wisconsin Idea every day for four years of undergrad. I definitely try to use my education and experiences to benefit those who don’t have the opportunity to attend college. I am a vessel of knowledge that can leave the campus and bring with me the ideas I have learned during my time on campus.

What did you do before enrolling at the La Follette School?
I was a student. I did not get a break between undergrad and grad school, so I am excited to finally be entering "the real world" in May.