La Follette celebrates graduates, awards record number of undergraduate certificates

Graduates of the La Follette School's master's degree class of 2024 stand on the steps of the Wisconsin State Capitol

On May 12, the La Follette School’s master’s degree graduates, including 35 MPA students and 11 MIPA students, celebrated their graduation during an uplifting ceremony in the Wisconsin State Capitol’s Assembly Chamber.

“I hope you know that it’s the way you go through this world that matters,” said student speaker Mary Baumgartner (MPA ’24) during her remarks to the graduating class. “Whether you acknowledge someone, whether you are patient and forgiving, whether you make time…how you live your life when you don’t think anyone is watching.”

“Left, right, or center, we are people who believe that public policy can advance the public good,” said Professor Manny Teodoro, who was chosen by students to be the faculty speaker. He went on to discuss the importance of building common ground in a time of rising ideological extremism and distrust of institutions. “A scientific approach to policy provides common language and builds common ground in turbulent times and fractured places, and that is the approach you’ve learned with us at La Follette.”

Mary Baumgartner speaks at a podium during the graduation ceremony
“I hope you know that it’s the way you go through this world that matters,” said student speaker Mary Baumgartner (MPA ’24)

Finally, La Follette alum Steven Little (MPA ’91), Deputy Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, emphasized the importance of maintaining intellectual curiosity and stressed how invaluable mentors can be. “Being able to stack successes and accomplishments on top of each other—not for the sake of personal ambition but in service of something bigger than yourself—is going to be the most fulfilling and the most satisfying thing that you can do in public service,” said Little.

During the ceremony, several students were recognized for their academic achievements and presented with awards. Tatiana Paula da Cruz (MIPA ’24) was this year’s recipient of the Director’s Achievement Award for an outstanding academic record, initiative, and professionalism. Zaher Akl (MIPA ’24) won the Penniman Prize for the best paper demonstrating the school’s writing and analytic tools for his paper, “Lifting Filibuster for Equality Legislation.” Finally, Alexis Madson (MPA ’24) and MPA student Lauren Rhodes won the Piore Prize for the best paper in science and public policy for their co-written paper, “Analysis of Privacy Regulation Adoption in the U.S.”

This year marks the 25th anniversary of La Follette’s two master’s programs. Since 1999, over 1,000 students have received MPA and MIPA degrees and gone on to make a positive impact at the highest levels of government, nonprofit, and private-sector organizations across the country and around the world.

Many people worked hard to make this year’s master’s graduation ceremony a success, including La Follette School Student Association graduation coordinators Amelia Lowe and Erin Kennon.

Ceremony recordingCeremony photos

Undergraduate certificate graduates

This spring the La Follette School awarded more undergraduate certificates than ever before. Of the May 2024 graduating class of undergraduate students, 112 students completed public policy certificates, 49 students completed health policy certificates, and five students earned both certificates.

The certificate programs have grown tremendously since they were launched in 2019 and 2021. Students in the public policy and health policy certificate programs complete a wide range of majors including global health, biology, political science, nursing, and economics. Graduates go on to a variety of careers in private, nonprofit, and government sectors including policy research and analysis, community outreach, program management, health care management consulting, and public health management. The certificate programs have allowed the La Follette School to train more public policy leaders during a time when highly skilled and nonpartisan public workers are in great demand.

Students and their teacher Mary Michaud pose for a group photo in their classroom
Undergraduate students in the Workshop in Health Policy course, with instructor Mary Michaud (rear, 4th from left) and two “client” mentors (rear, center) Tina Marshalek from Covering Wisconsin and Jeremy Barofsky from ideas42.

Applied experiences, such as internships and client projects, are a cornerstone of the certificate programs. In April and May, certificate students in classes like PA 274: Workshop in Health Policy gave their final presentations of their semester-long projects aimed at helping real-world clients. Students worked in groups to research, analyze, and make policy recommendations based on the needs of their clients. The policy analysis and project management skills learned completing client projects and internships will be integral to students’ future success.

Congratulations to the 2024 La Follette graduates, who will go on to help society and use their analysis and public management skills to make the world a better place for everyone!

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