La Follette School joins national network of universities, supported by Volcker Alliance

Group photo of staff standing in front of a fountain.
La Follette School staff joined an array of U.S. colleges and universities funded by the Volcker Alliance, meeting in Atlanta in April 2023. The group strategizes together about increasing the number and diversity of undergraduate students entering public service.

To boost real-world opportunities for undergraduate students studying public policy and health policy, the La Follette School has joined the NextGen Service Initiative, a national network of universities and colleges training undergraduates for careers in public service. As part of this network, La Follette received a one-year grant from the Volcker Alliance, named for the late Paul Volcker, economist and former chair of the Federal Reserve Bank. Volcker recognized that addressing the national shortage of public service workers would require a significant investment.

More than ever, undergraduate students rely on practical, applied experiences to get the most out of their education. In fact, an applied experience, such as an internship, project, or client-based workshop course, is required in both the La Follette undergraduate certificate in public policy and the certificate in health policy.

Photo of Mary Davis Michaud
Undergraduate program coordinator and instructor Mary Michaud attended the April Volcker Alliance meeting in Atlanta.

La Follette is using the NextGen Service grant funding to support two graduate project assistants, Owen Jonas, who graduated last May from UW–Madison with the public policy certificate having completed one year of the accelerated MPA, and Francis Amedoadzi, who graduated with a business degree from the University of Winneba in Ghana and joined the MPA program this fall to study health policy. Together with staff and building on a solid foundation established by career services director, Marie Koko, they will build applied opportunities for the more than 340 undergraduate students currently enrolled in certificate programs.

One goal of the initiative is to continue to break down barriers that might exist for first-generation and other students who face challenges accessing paid opportunities or fitting internships into already full schedules. Amedoadzi and Jonas will help evaluate current and past student internship experiences, identify new applied opportunities across the state, support employers in creating opportunities, and ensure La Follette students take advantage of existing campus opportunities to boost their applied experiences in public service.

“Evidence tells us that high-impact experiences, such as service learning, undergraduate research, study abroad, internships, and capstone projects, make a significant difference to the quality of our students’ educational experiences,” says undergraduate program coordinator and instructor Mary Michaud, who leads the school’s initiative. “If we can help remove barriers to these meaningful experiences for all students, we’ll contribute a lot by training a diverse, Wisconsin-grown workforce ready for effective work with our cities, towns, villages, and the state.”

Contact to learn about hosting La Follette School undergraduate students for projects or internships.

High-impact experiences reflect one way the University of Wisconsin System measures success in undergraduate education. Recognizing the value of this approach, La Follette designed its certificate programs to include a course that students completing internships take alongside their experience, focusing on key skills and concepts useful to entering public sector employment. This semester, La Follette engaged MPA alum Jennie Mauer Maunnamalai, the executive director of the Wisconsin Head Start Association, to teach that course, adding even more richness and experienced mentorship to undergraduates’ experiences.

Through the Volcker Alliance’s cross-school programming, La Follette students will also have opportunities to connect with other service-minded students and alumni around the country. The partnership offers access to emerging resources and promising practices around undergraduate program design at NextGen Service schools.

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