Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Krumenauer finds school, work experiences add up

Gail and Matt Krumenauer with Salem's cherry blossoms in the background. Gail, a 2009 MPA grad, is an economist with the Oregon Employment Department.

Recommending the La Follette School

"The University of Wisconsin and the La Follette School are well-respected institutions where a student can receive a top-tier education. The MPA program encourages students to pursue a rigorous, multi-disciplinary curriculum. The program gives you a solid analytical foundation while also allowing the pursuit of your own research interests. In addition to my core La Follette classes, I also had the opportunity to conduct original research projects related to public policy in law and applied economics courses. Aside from coursework, my classmates were a group of smart and inspiring people that I enjoyed spending time with outside of class and academic projects. Living in Madison is also a huge plus: the lakes, the arboretum, the neighborhoods, the farmers' market … all wonderful."

— Gail Krumenauer, '09 MPA, economist, Oregon Employment Department

Rotary trip to India gives student insight on U.S. public affairs

Second-year student Gail Kiles Krumenauer got a new perspective on her career interests in the intersection of local economic development and domestic social policy. She spent about four weeks traveling the region around the cities of Mumbai and Pune in India as part of a Rotary International exchange in 2009. Read more

Fifteen months after she completed her capstone workshop report at the La Follette School, Gail Krumenauer found herself sitting with three other economists figuring out why the state of Oregon's per-capita personal income was declining compared to the rest of the United States.

"The governor asked the research division of the Oregon Employment Department to identify reasons why the state's PCPI was ranked 32nd," the 2009 grad says. "We developed an approximately 40-page report with analysis on the primary reasons and contributing factors to the relatively low PCPI in Oregon. We compared Oregon to the top-PCPI states and a group of 'peer states,' using the PCPI drivers we identified as metrics. It was very similar to a capstone project. The report received quite a bit of attention and helped to inform public discussions on the issue."

The project was just one instance in which Krumenauer drew on her learning experiences at the La Follette School, where she earned a Master of Public Affairs degree. "I use the concepts I learned in our first-semester economics course regularly," she notes. "And it's funny, after I finished our econometrics course (PA 819) I was so proud of how quickly I re-sold the textbook online; now I wish I had it as a reference!"

Krumenauer values school's practice of encouraging students to use their coursework to explore other disciplines. "One of the most relevant classes I took outside the La Follette School was the community economic analysis course offered by the Agricultural and Applied Economics Department," she says. "That course exposed me to many data sets that I use now, most notably the Bureau of Economic Analysis data, which was the key source for the per-capita personal income study I took part in last fall."

The practice the many writing exercises gave her also proved helpful. "I am often asked — within a tight time frame — to create one-page or two-page summaries that convey complex concepts and data for a general audience," Krumenauer says. "My familiarity with various data sets and writing skills were two key characteristics that helped me stand out in a competitive field of candidates interviewing for my job."

Krumenauer started out as a workforce analyst, but became an economist after four months, focusing on the occupational side of workforce information. When Oregon's new governor took office, she led a project to give his transition team information about job creation with analysis and data on "hard-to-fill" jobs in Oregon.

"We collected data from various sources and organized them into a matrix of the most common occupations with vacancies and unfilled job openings, categorized by the level of necessary training," Krumenauer says. "I also co-authored a brief report detailing our findings. The report and matrix were used by the governor's transition team as information that contributed to a legislative bill introducing a program for short-term job creation in the state."

But through October 2011 she will serve as the Employment Department's green jobs economist. "The project focuses on collecting and reporting data about workers in the state whose jobs create renewable energy, increase energy efficiency, restore the natural environment, prevent or mitigate environmental degradation, or educate, consult or provide services related to those four areas."

Krumenauer shares that information with policymakers, workforce investment boards, higher education entities, businesses and economic development organizations by working on special reports, responding to data requests, giving presentations at conferences, and writing for the agency's research blog.

She practiced those organizational skills during a project assistantship with two professors in the Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis Department. She worked on literature reviews and coordinated a colloquium. For her internship, Krumenauer worked with a professor in a work group that reported on the economic impacts of early childhood care and education in Dane County. "We worked with several nonprofit and public organizations to develop a policy white paper," Krumenauer says. "I was the lead author of the report, and I had a hand in a substantial share of the economic analysis in the paper."

When Krumenauer enrolled at La Follette, she saw herself as a programs director or, eventually an executive director, of a community-focused nonprofit or foundation. "During my time at La Follette, my focus shifted to the state level — small enough to still feel tangible, but requiring more broad-based thinking, geographically," she says.

The change in perspective proved beneficial when her husband accepted a job in Salem, Oregon, and Krumenauer started looking for work. "The opportunity to re-start my career in the Pacific Northwest was quite unexpected, and it's been more rewarding and fun than I could have imagined or hoped!"