Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Saturday, March 20, 2021

Jacob Pankratz, MPA

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Mosinee, WI

Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degree in history and social welfare, UW–Madison, 2015

Professional/research interests
State budget, tribal government, intergovernmental relations

Associated Students of Madison, graduate student representative

Expected graduation date
May 2021

Why an MPA?
Working as a teacher in a tribal school on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation during the Standing Rock pipeline protests made me aware of the issues in intertribal relations, specifically the lack of concern from those in power of the issues facing Indian country. Seeing my community being ignored by government spurred me on to work in government to change this.

Why the La Follette School?
I was aware of the La Follette School as an undergrad and always kept it as an option after graduating. Being back in Madison was a big factor, as well as the small cohort and affiliation with UW–Madison.

Career goals
I would like to work in state or federal government in areas such as tribal relations or the state budget process.

How has the La Follette School set you on the path to meeting your career goals?
The number of skills I’ve learned and refined in my two years at the La Follette School is extraordinary. The ability to write a clear and concise policy memo, analyzing the history and implementation of policy, and working with clients has set me up for success in my career. At first I was surprised how skills-focused the coursework was, but as I apply for jobs, I can see clearly why this is such a focus for the La Follette School.

I’ve had three project assistant positions: a research-focused assistantship working on geoengineering governance and policy with Professor Greg Nemet; a fellowship and funding project assistant in the Graduate School Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Funding processing funding requests and serving the graduate student population, and an hourly project assistant with Director Susan Webb Yackee interviewing administrative executives across the country. All of them have been just as influential in learning key skills through coursework.

Client-based projects
Public Management (PA 878): conducting a management analysis for the Community Immigration Law Center (CILC), a nonprofit organization in Madison. This project included interviews, independent research, and submitting recommendations for CILC to improve services.

Cost-Benefit Analysis (PA 881): monetizing costs and benefits for Wisconsin Department of Children and Families’ Independent Living programs for former foster youth. Surveys, interviews, and research on monetizing key services such as FoodShare and health insurance and recommending alternate eligibility criteria to maximize net benefits.

Workshop (PA 869): estimating the secondary refugee population in Brown County and analyzing service needs of the refugee population on behalf of the Brown County Refugee Task Force through focus groups, surveys, and research on programs in other communities.

La Follette School mentor
Professor Nemet taught me a lot about research resources and academic writing. His guidance in my first project assistantship helped me a lot in my later coursework.

Advice for prospective La Follette School students
Work together with your peers; help from others has been incredibly important, and it’s so much easier to complete high-quality work when collaborating with others.

I also highly recommend Sociology 365 – Data Management for Social Science Research as an elective, which is a course that teaches the basics of STATA and allows for hands-on practice. I feel so much more comfortable using STATA after taking this course.

Most rewarding La Follette School experience
Seeing an analysis in STATA work correctly after hours of troubleshooting!

Wisconsin Idea
The Wisconsin Idea has been a big factor in my decision to get an MPA degree and work in government. I think it’s a powerful motivator for me to always be thinking about how my work impacts all Wisconsinites, and I think my skill set can be most effectively used working in government in service to the state of Wisconsin.

Before the La Follette School
Middle school science teacher with Teach for America, and Software Tester/User Experience Analyst at Epic Systems.

Volunteer activities
I serve on ASM Student Council representing the Graduate School. It’s been a lot of fun to use my policy analysis skills to refine legislation as well as propose my own legislation. I have also enjoyed serving graduate students in this way.

People would be surprised if they knew that I …
Am a huge fan of candles and want to get into candle-making. Hopefully I will be able to do this when I have more free time after graduating!