Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Thursday, March 18, 2021

Kelsey Maria Gordon, MPA

Kelsey Maria Gordon, MPA

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Hometown
Long Beach, CA

Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing; minors in education, psychology, and social behavior, University of California, Irvine, 2015

Professional/research interests
PreK-12 education policy, social policy, participatory action research

Honors
La Follette School Fellow

Expected graduation date
May 2022

Why an MPA?
In my previous work at a literacy nonprofit organization, I frequently spoke with educators, authors, librarians, and young people about books and access to books. These conversations started in literature but inevitably led to longer conversations on ways to disrupt the structural, systemic barriers to resources that students and educators need to succeed. Those experiences, combined with volunteering with my local Planned Parenthood and ACLU chapters in Washington, D.C., helped me understand how policies impact my communities and inspired me to pivot into public policy. The best way for me to gain the skills I needed was to pursue an MPA.

Why the La Follette School?
The La Follette School offered the core skills-based quantitative and qualitative courses I needed to add to my professional toolkit as well as a flexible program that would allow me to build knowledge in my policy emphasis (education). Furthermore, the professional development opportunities through the Seminar Series and Career Services were important in my decision. Funding was also a big factor in my decision, and the fellowship offer I received confirmed my decision to come to the La Follette School.

Career goals
Before I started the program, my career goals were focused on working in or with a school district or advocacy organization to create and implement community-based, just policies. After taking Introduction to Public Management (PA 878) with Associate Professor Tana Johnson and Education Policy in Context and Action with Professor Annalee Good, I am considering work focused on program evaluation and participatory action research.

Mentors
Last semester, a few of my classmates and I created a study group for the Introduction to Statistical Methods (PA 818) course. This group was pivotal in helping me complete the homework and study for exams. Furthermore, the community we created was invaluable (especially in a virtual environment) and extended beyond that class. Learning and growing with them was a big highlight in my first semester.

Advice for prospective students
Talk to professors and alumni about their experiences—I am grateful for the conversations I’ve had. They’ve been immensely helpful in my transition back to school after working full-time and in building a program that will help me achieve my career goal.

La Follette School Student Association (LSSA) involvement
I am one of the community service and outreach co-coordinators for the La Follette Student Association (LSSA). Our activities have been limited in the past year due to COVID-19 restrictions, but we did manage to host service events with food pantries, Dane County Parks, and letter writing to senior citizens.

Anything else?
Madison has great outside spaces! I went on a lot of picnics in the summer and tried cross-country/classic skiing for the first time this winter (with moderate success but would do it again).

People would be surprised if they knew that I …
… am an avid and terrible baker. Inevitably, I accidentally double one ingredient and forget another. Eve Ewing inspires many of my bread-baking attempts (and much of my policy and non-policy-related reading).