Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, April 19, 2021

Jackson Parr, MPA ’20

Jackson Parr, MPA ’20

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Hometown
Elmhurst, IL

Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degree in history and journalism, University of Iowa

Employer
Wisconsin Department of Health Services/Wisconsin Sea Grant

 Job title
J. Phillip Keillor Flood Resilience Fellow

Start date
April 2021

Primary job responsibilities
I work on various projects related to improving flood resilience of communities in Wisconsin.

Describe a project that best illustrates your job.
The primary project will include further development and outreach for the Flood Resilience Scorecard, a tool that communities can use to assess their own infrastructural, social, and administrative capacity to manage flooding. The scorecard will then provide recommendations to improve flood resilience based on the results.

How do you use what you learned at La Follette on the job?
The breadth of coursework I completed at the La Follette School provided me the opportunity to approach challenges through an interdisciplinary lens. Flood events trigger many different social and institutional dynamics that all must be considered when identifying solutions.

Which experiences and skills in particular helped you get your job?
My capstone project, which had our cohort working with Wisconsin communities on their fiscal challenges due to state restrictions is directly relevant to the work that I am doing in my new position. More broadly, the opportunity to work as part of a team on a real-world project with a client has been invaluable.

Why a master’s degree in public affairs?
My work as a newspaper editor in northeastern Wisconsin informed my decision to pursue my master’s degree in public affairs. I frequently saw the difficulty that rural communities had in navigating state and federal policy, and I wanted to further understand these relationships to improve outcomes in rural communities.

Why the La Follette School?
I know that I want to build my career in Wisconsin, so the La Follette School provided an opportunity to continue my study in the state.

Project assistantships while at the La Follette School
I had a variety of assistantships while at the La Follette School. In my first year, I was a teaching assistant for a political science course on the First Amendment. In my second year, I worked with Professor Susan Yackee on the American State Administrators Project (ASAP). That experience in particular helped me get comfortable with organizing large datasets while also giving me a lens into the true operation of state governments.

Impact of client-based projects 
The client-based projects were the most valuable part of the La Follette School experience. Through Cost-Benefit Analysis (PA 881) and Workshop (PA 869), we learned how to work within a team of people who possessed various proficiencies while navigating the often-complex realities of client demands with the practice of policy analysis.

Most rewarding La Follette School experience
My most rewarding experience was the opportunity to present our Cost-Benefit Analysis paper on biodigesters in northeastern Wisconsin during a conference in Green Bay. Many of the people I knew from my newspaper days were in attendance, which helped validate my decision to return to graduate school.

Most challenging La Follette School experience
Although it was an invaluable lesson, the most challenging experience was navigating the social dimensions of group projects. La Follette School students come from such a variety of backgrounds that it can create friction, particularly when trying to deliver a report on a deadline.

Why would you recommend the La Follette School to a prospective student?
The great thing about the La Follette School is the way in which it serves as your ticket into anywhere at the University. I was able to take courses in the Law School and the graduate economics program, which are notoriously exclusive. I was also able to build a curriculum that allowed me to add a second master’s degree in Water Resources Management.

Helpful alumni, faculty, friends, others
Since graduating, I’ve kept in touch with a friend from the La Follette School, Michael Caniglia, who has been an eager ear in listening to my challenges and opportunities entering the workforce. I was fortunate to befriend him in the program and look forward to rooting him on toward his PhD.

Anything else?
I was fortunate to participate in a study abroad program during my undergraduate education that took me to 16 countries around the world. I have since kept my travels closer to home, but I hope to cross the pond again soon.

Favorite book, podcast, app, Madison restaurant …
Book: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Podcast: NPR’s Hidden Brain
Madison Restaurant: Ha Long Bay

People would be surprised to know that I am currently working on a project to run across the United States. I’ve completed about 1,000 miles from San Diego to Roswell, NM, with an aim for the east coast.