Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Thursday, April 14, 2022

La Follette School students gain hands-on experience and funding through assistantships

From left to right: Matthew Hansen, Jenna Greene, and Jacob Boelter From left to right: Matthew Hansen, Jenna Greene, and Jacob Boelter

Whether part of an admissions offer or found by using the Student Job Center, graduate assistantships offer several significant benefits to La Follette School students. Every graduate assistantship over 13.4 hours per week (33.4% of a 40-hour work week) includes full tuition remission whether the student is in- or out-of-state, a stipend, and benefits such as health insurance, vacation, and sick leave.

La Follette School student Matthew Hansen (JD-MPA ’22) has served as a teaching assistant (TA) for a multitude of courses, including PA 200 Contemporary Issues in Public Policy with Professors Garcia and Chinn. “I genuinely love teaching and discussing with students,” says Hansen. “I walk out of each class with a little bit of a rush and feeling as though I helped someone look at the world in a new and exciting or more interesting way. I have a strong passion for the topics I have had the opportunity to teach, and I love being able pass that energy and passion onto the next generation of change makers.”

The primary roles of a TA include attending lectures, hosting office hours for students, leading discussion sections, and grading. Many TAs even inspire students to apply to the La Follette School's Accelerated Program or undergraduate certificates.

Hansen also applies his La Follette School knowledge to his role as a TA. “I bring a lot of what I learned in my MPA into the classroom. I think the courses I have taught have given me a greater understanding of and appreciation for those subjects,” said Hansen.

La Follette School students also conduct research under the guidance of a faculty member as a project assistant (PA). La Follette School student Jenna Greene (MPA-EAP ’22) serves as a PA for La Follette School Professor Greg Nemet. In her role, Greene “works with Professor Nemet on literature reviews for a variety of projects, including the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 6th Assessment report and a variety of research projects on low-carbon technology policies and adoption.”

“This position helped me learn more about the global policy landscape and technological policy generally, whereas my past experiences were more focused on local energy policy,” Greene continued. “This position has also given me confidence in my skills in research and data analysis, which I hope to carry into my future career.”

For Jacob Boelter, an MPA student and alumnus of UW–Madison, his work with the Institute for Research on Poverty and the UW Survey Center has exemplified the Wisconsin Idea. “Being a Wisconsinite, I felt that the incorporation of the Wisconsin Idea into curriculum and the opportunity to apply concepts and skills in Wisconsin-specific contexts seemed like the best way for me to learn how I can become instrumental in public service,” said Boelter.

In his current role, Boelter is assisting on a project that is working to create a tool that helps individuals and families experiencing financial hardships. “Our goal is to improve the ways that surveys capture experiences with debt and owing money.” This role has allowed him to take what he has learned in the classroom and apply it to the real-world to make an impact for Wisconsinites.

When asked if he had specific advice for students, Boelter recommended, “apply to anything that you are interested in and qualify for and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. It can feel discouraging, but it’s important not to give up, even if it feels like you’re cutting it close to the start of the semester.”

More information about teaching assistantship, project assistantship, and research assistantship positions can be found on the UW–Madison Graduate School website.

- Written by Will Keenan