Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Thursday, July 7, 2011

Johnson plans to inform public policy decisions

Rachel Johnson


After graduating in May 2012 with her Master of Public Affairs degree, Rachel Johnson is joining the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau as a fiscal analyst.

Following three years of work in Japan, Rachel Johnson is exploring U.S. domestic policy by earning a Master of Public Affairs degree at the La Follette School.

After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with majors in economics and Japanese, Johnson worked with elementary and junior high school teachers through the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme, helping them teach English. "I wanted to witness firsthand how people in another country live and think," Johnson says. "I resided in a rural area where few people spoke English, a strong local dialect was still in use, and people maintained many older cultural traditions. It was a rich and rewarding adventure."

During her third year abroad, Johnson passed level 1 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. When she returned to the United States in 2009, she worked as a medical interpreter, facilitating communication between Japanese patients and their English-speaking doctors.

Wanting to learn more about public policy in the United States, Johnson came to the La Follette School in the fall of 2010. "I chose La Follette because the curriculum offers a balance of quantitative and analytical policy courses as well as courses more focused on public administration, such as Public Management," she says. "During my time here, I have gained excellent training in policy analysis, program evaluation and public finance."

Last summer Johnson trained for a sprint triathlon. She and Katherine Sydor first trained together for April's Crazylegs run in 2011. "After we finished, I considered adding swimming and cycling to my exercise routine," Johnson says. "When I told Katherine about the Silver Lake Triathlon in Portage in August, she jumped at the opportunity. We continue to support each other to accomplish our next fitness goals."

Johnson is a project assistant with the Evidence-Based Health Policy Project, a joint effort of the La Follette School, Population Health Institute and the Wisconsin Legislative Council to improve the health of Wisconsin's residents by providing policymakers with research to make informed decisions and by encouraging involvement of University of Wisconsin–Madison faculty in state policy issues. "I assist in planning and implementing legislative briefings and policy forums," says Johnson, who held a La Follette fellowship her first year. "Other duties include attending meetings of related legislative committees and conducting follow-up research."

Johnson is secretary of the La Follette School Student Association. Her duties include recording member and executive board meetings and conducting elections. "This year, we have worked to facilitate increased participation in the association by La Follette students generally," Johnson says. "We are very excited for next year's leaders, who were just elected to the 2012-2013 executive board."

Participation in LSSA and projects with classmates is an important part of Johnson's time at the La Follette School. She and 2011 graduate Soumary Vongrassamy collected book donations for libraries at Wisconsin's correctional facilities in fall 2010. "There are incredible learning opportunities at the school, both in the classroom and informally through seminars, volunteer work and time spent with your classmates," Johnson says. "La Follette attracts students of a high caliber, from various backgrounds and with strong public service motivation. It has been a privilege to exchange ideas and organize events with them."

After she graduates, Johnson would like to use policy research and analysis to inform the formation and implementation of public policy. "I came to the La Follette School to pursue a career of public service," she says. "I hope to make use of the skills and knowledge I have developed through this program."

— article last updated June 4, 2012