Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Friday, February 2, 2007

La Follette School sends 8 from class of 2007 on to Ph.D. programs

UW public policy Ph.D. available through special committee degree

The special committee degree enables a student interested in pursuing a doctorate in public policy to do so at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Special committee degrees are built around individual study needs and interests that cannot be satisfied by approved degree programs.

"The special committee degree makes excellent use of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's resources for public affairs students," says La Follette School professor Carolyn Heinrich. "Public affairs draws on various combinations of different disciplines, and the flexibility of the special committee degree allows doctoral students to pursue their individual interests and shape their studies at the doctoral level."

Two La Follette MPA alumni are currently pursuing the special committee Ph.D in Public Policy, one of them 2007 grad Callie Gray.

Hilary Shager is in the third year of her doctoral program. The 2005 La Follette School alum is collaborating with faculty on examinations of child support; early childhood education and family support; and relationships between mothers' education and their children's academic outcomes.

"La Follette provided me with a great basic 'tool kit' in econ, stats, and policy analysis," Shager says. "La Follette did a good job of helping me think about the ways in which academic research applies to 'real-world' policy situations — that's a perspective that I really value." The interdisciplinary nature of public policy research makes the wide-ranging resources of the University of Wisconsin–Madison invaluable, Shager says.

Faculty support and the accessiblity of their projects are also a boon, she adds. "I'm working with top scholars who've been very generous in letting me get involved in interesting and challenging projects with important policy implications."

Eight students from the La Follette School of Public Affairs class of 2007 are pursuing doctorates this fall.

"For such a small program, this is an impressive number of students to go on to pursue Ph.D.s," says La Follette School professor Carolyn Heinrich, who is also associate director of the Institute for Research on Poverty.

"The high quality of the doctoral programs to which these students have been admitted and their ability to compete successfully for prestigious fellowships suggests that the La Follette School does an excellent job of preparing its master's students for the rigors of doctoral-level studies," Heinrich says. "It also reflects the top-rate student body that the La Follette School attracts."

The La Follette School graduates about 50 students each year with master's degrees in public affairs or international public affairs.

One student, Matthew Steinberg, is at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. He is a pre-doctoral educational fellow as a member of the University of Chicago Committee on Education.

Dani Fumia is at the University of Washington's Evans School of Public Affairs focusing on how public policies affect marginalized groups, specifically racial minorities. She also is working as a research assistant on a project about the determinants of high school course-taking and the effects of course-taking on postsecondary achievement.

The other six are continuing their graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, three of them continuing their education in the Department of Political Science. A fourth, Callie Gray, is pursuing a special committee Ph.D. in public policy.

Raul Leon is with the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, in which he has an advanced opportunity fellowship. He is in the higher education track with concentrations on diversity issues, the role of student administrators of color and study-abroad experiences.

In the History Department, Yeri Lopez is focusing on 20th-century Bolivia, where he served in the Peace Corps. In addition to an Advanced Opportunity Fellowship, he received a second Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education to continue his Quichua studies.

Brandon Lamson also received a FLAS, which he is using to study Chinese as part of his studies in the Department of Political Science, where Leah Larson-Rabin and Deven Carlson are also commencing their Ph.D. studies.