Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Karina Virrueta, MPA

Karina Virrueta, MPA

Elkhorn, Wisconsin

Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degree in psychology, criminal justice certificate, UW-Madison, 2013

Why an MPA?
An MPA prepares students to tackle some of society’s largest problems. After looking at my job choices fresh out of college (research specialist at UW-Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty, grant specialist at the Wisconsin Department of Justice, nonprofit direct service provider), I realized that is exactly what I wanted to do – make an impact.

Professional/research interests
Local government and nonprofit administration/management, especially civic engagement (especially among minorities) and equal opportunity for underserved populations; and criminal justice policy, including crime prevention, specifically family violence (domestic and sexual abuse, neglect); offender rehabilitation; law enforcement training.

Advanced Opportunity Fellowship

Why the La Follette School?
I am a large proponent of and believer in The Wisconsin Idea. I felt that the La Follette School captured the essence of this guiding philosophy. Since I love Wisconsin and plan to live here, I felt it was necessary to develop local, professional relationships.

Summer internship
I worked at the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) as a grants support specialist, traveling around Wisconsin providing technical assistance to victim service programs and monitoring their progress. I also interned with the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) as a research analyst in the Research & Program Evaluation Office where I analyzed and produced reports for the Academic and Career Planning program.

Which experiences and skills helped you get the internships?
I previously interned with the DOJ, and the people I worked with liked my work. At MMSD, the staff in the department where I worked were La Follette School graduates. They knew what statistical skills I had after my first year, so they were happy to have me as part of their team.

Project assistantship
I am helping Associate Director Hilary Shager with the Family Impact Seminars program and Committee Connect. I am ecstatic about the opportunity because although I’ve worked in state government, I have had little experience with the state Legislature. Something that drew me to the La Follette School was The Wisconsin Idea, and I feel these programs truly exemplify that mission – In essence, I’m excited to be part of The Wisconsin Idea in action.

Volunteer activities
I am a board member for Wisconsin Literacy and a member of the Madison Young Non-Profit Professionals Network. On campus, I am the graduation coordinator for the La Follette School Student Association (LSSA) and captain of the Fighting Bobs intramural volleyball team.

What drew you to LSSA?
As soon as LSSA presented at student orientation, I knew I wanted to be involved. I like the idea of students taking action to make their graduate experience as rich and rewarding as possible. I volunteered for the graduation coordinator position because I have experience in event planning; I planned quinceaneras for my siblings and me. I also enjoy being in such a position of management and care a lot about aesthetics and presentation.

Supportive alumni, colleagues, friends
Kara Kratowicz (MSW ’09) was an incredible resource for me. I was happy to talk with her about her experiences at the state and now at the city. Jill Karofsky (MA/JD ’92), director of the Office of Crime Victim Services at DOJ, also helped me realize that law school was not the route for me. I also met Danielle Giese (MPA ’01) during the La Follette in DC program, and she shared information about working at the Government Accountability Office and in Washington, D.C.

Career goals
I’m not entirely sure where I’d like to end up, but I do hope to attain a leadership position where I can help implement big-picture change and impact.

How has the La Follette School set you on the path to meeting your career goals?
Coming into the program, I had very little idea about where I was going. The courses led me to realize what I wanted most from a career (responsibilities, daily tasks, etc.). The career development seminars, travel opportunities, and networking events opened up rewarding career possibilities. It is also comforting to know that I have supportive advisers to help me articulate and ultimately achieve my career goals.

Advice to prospective La Follette School students?
Be a part of the University action in any way possible: For a lot of us, this is our last time being a student, and so it’s essential to take advantage of every possible course, seminar, trip, etc. A lot of these activities also are FREE or low cost. Where else can you gain free knowledge/opportunity/experience? Also, develop strong relationships with your peers. It is useful in the short and long term – study groups and support for classes and future networking.

Anything else?
The skills I am gaining at the La Follette School are helping me feel competent in other courses (business, industrial and systems engineering, social work). In these courses, I champion a broad, worldly perspective as well as a technical, data-driven approach – which make me a competitive student (and future job seeker)!

People would be surprised if they knew ...
I am a car enthusiast. I spend a lot of my free time looking at the newest models and my next car ... unfortunately, these are usually not two in the same!