Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, June 13, 2022

La Follette School awards 79 Undergraduate Certificates

Clockwise from left: Yahvi Mahendra, Mia Williams, Amalie Zinn, and Hunter Evenson Clockwise from left: Yahvi Mahendra, Mia Williams, Amalie Zinn, and Hunter Evenson

In May, 79 students who received undergraduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin–Madison also earned certificates from the La Follette School of Public Affairs. Seventy-six students earned Certificates in Public Policy, and three students completed requirements for the new Certificate in Health Policy, which launched last fall. 

The Undergraduate Certificate in Public Policy program is one of the cornerstones of the La Follette School’s Kohl Initiative, created in May 2019 with a $10 million gift from former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl. Since May 2020, over 170 students have received undergraduate certificates from the La Follette School.

This summer, Selma Aly, who received a bachelor’s degree in community and environmental sociology and a Certificate in Public Policy, will start a position with Oakland, California-based Human Impact Partners, a consulting nonprofit bringing evidence-based equity to public health initiatives nationwide.

This fall, Mia Williams, who majored in psychology with a Certificate in Public Policy, will pursue dual MPA and MPH degrees with the La Follette School. She was recently selected to act as a graduate mentor for the Posse Program, an initiative to support diverse student cohorts as they succeed in undergraduate programs nationwide.

Amalie Zinn, who double-majored in economics and French, completed the Certificate in Public Policy and will be starting work with the Washington D.C.-based Urban Institute as a research assistant in their Housing Finance Policy Center.

Natalie Zientek received bachelor’s degrees in environmental sociology and environmental studies and a Certificate in Public Policy. She recently won the gold award in the Best Investigative Journalism Category at the Milwaukee Press Awards for co-writing a story for the Daily Cardinal about sexual assault survivors at UW–Madison.

In November, the La Follette School opened applications for its new Certificate in Health Policy. The new certificate program has garnered interest among pre-health professional students and students from a range of other majors. This May, the first three Certificate in Health Policy students graduated.

Christeena Jojo, who received a bachelor’s degree in health promotion and health equity with Certificates in Health Policy and Global Health, soon plans to apply to medical school, and is hoping to also study public health. She was highlighted as one of UW–Madison’s spring 2022 “notable graduates.”

Hunter Evenson, who completed a bachelor’s degree in health promotion and health equity and a Certificate in Health Policy, says he “would do it again in a heartbeat if given a chance.” He notes, “I not only had the opportunity to gain experience with Covering Wisconsin (a nonprofit that connects Wisconsin residents with health insurance) but also gained exposure to the fascinating world of public policy, a world where one can lean into their passions and discover what truly moves them. As I look forward, it was through this experience that I found a passion for health literacy and how we can harness the power of video and health material design to make health-related decisions approachable and easier to understand.”

Yahvi Mahendra graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and health promotion and health equity and completed Certificates in Health Policy, Global Health, and Leadership. As the senior class diversity, equity, and inclusion director, Mahendra introduced the keynote speaker, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, during the 2022 UW–Madison commencement ceremony. Thomas-Greenfield earned a master’s degree from the La Follette School’s predecessor, the Center for the Study of Public Policy and Administration, in 1975.

Following graduation, Mahendra is planning to work in the healthcare industry and is looking into a variety of corporate positions. “Because of my health policy coursework, I feel more confident in critically evaluating health policies within my work given the examples I've been presented in class, and my health policy coursework has allowed me to be more knowledgeable in the interview process as well,” says Mahendra.

The undergraduate certificate programs allow students to develop skills in critical thinking, analysis, and communication while focusing on real-world problems. These skills complement a student’s major course of study, helping build a strong foundation for a wide range of careers in government, nonprofit organizations, or the private sector. Many students also go on to graduate programs in a range of disciplines.

The La Follette School accepts applications for both certificate programs each November and May.