Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Jonathan Harper, MPA

Jonathan Harper, MPA

Berwyn, Illinois

Undergraduate education
Bachelor of science in education, bachelor of arts in English, Loyola University, Chicago, 2013

Professional/research interests
K-12 education, teacher advocacy, teacher education

Expected graduation
May 2019


Why an MPA?

As a public school teacher, I became frustrated with how much policy constrained my work in the classroom and decided to work toward giving teachers a voice to advocate for their students’ needs. I want to work to close the divide between best practices and actual practices in the field of education. My time living and working in Mexico also sparked my interest in education outside the United States.

Project assistantship

This is my third semester as a university supervisor in UW–Madison’s School of Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction. I observe student teachers in their middle and elementary school placements and give them feedback on their pedagogical practices. I enjoy this work because it is rewarding in and of itself and because it keeps me in touch with the experience of being a teacher.

Summer internship

This summer I worked as an impact assessment intern at En Vía, a nonprofit organization in Oaxaca, Mexico, that provides interest-free microfinance loans and business education to women entrepreneurs in the state of Oaxaca. I also worked as an intern for a partnership between UW–Madison and the University of Guadalajara.

Internship responsibilities

My primary responsibilities for En Vía were developing its businesses education curriculum, observing the business education teacher, helping teach the classes, and writing an evaluation plan for the updated business education program. For my other internship, I did a site visit to Guadalajara to explore ways that the partnership between the universities could develop.

What experiences and skills helped you get the internship?

My work as a teacher gave me the necessary familiarity with curriculum design, and my current teaching assistantship provided me with the skills needed to observe and give pedagogical feedback. Additionally, my time living in Mexico gave me the Spanish proficiency I needed to communicate effectively in a professional environment. Finally, Public Affairs 819: Advanced Statistical Methods for Public Policy Analysis, Public Affairs 873: Policy Analysis, Public Affairs 878: Public Management, and Education Policy Studies 600: Problems in Education Policy all were instrumental for my final project: the program evaluation plan.

Client-based course projects

I have had the opportunity to work with several clients in my coursework. I took two classes with Professor Annalee Good last year that involved client projects. I prepared a policy analysis on formative practice in classrooms in Education Policy Studies 765: Issues in Educational Policy Analysis. I also completed an evaluation plan of a Grow-Our-Own teacher education program in Education Policy Studies 600: Problems in Educational Policy. Both times I briefed the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction on my findings. Last semester, I also worked with a team in my Public Affairs 878: Public Management course to analyze best practices in equity budgeting and present those findings to Public Health Madison & Dane County.

This semester, I am conducting a cost-benefit analysis of a rural health clinic in Honduras with a team in Public Affairs 881: Cost-Benefit Analysis. In Sociology 496: Educational Policies to Reduce Inequality, I am analyzing the effects of toxic stress on educational outcomes and will present to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction at the end of the semester.

The Wisconsin Idea

I was not familiar with the Wisconsin Idea until I applied to the La Follette School, but it was one of the main reasons why I chose to attend. I am fascinated by how research-based best practices are implemented in resource scarce organizations.

Besides the client projects, I have been able to practice the Wisconsin Idea with my involvement in The Network at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. First, I will continue to work with Wisconsin Educators for Policy, Outreach, and Practice, a group dedicated to teacher-driven conversation about education policy and providing teachers with research briefs on education topics. Second, I will co-lead a program evaluation of the Forward Madison initiative through the Wisconsin Evaluation Collaborative Clinic.