Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, December 17, 2019

La Follette students help plan 3rd Wisconsin Ideas Conference

The Wisconsin Ideas Conference is back for its third year, bringing students interested in government and public policy a unique opportunity to publish and refine their ideas, participate in lively discussions with academics and professionals, and earn scholarships.

The conference will take place April 10 and 11 at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and applications are due Sunday, January 26 at 11:59 p.m.

Applicants must submit a brief overview (approximately 100 words) of a policy problem they plan to address during the conference, which is organized by students in UW–Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs and Department of Political Science.  

“We work to create an environment for students to engage in contemporary public policy issues, discuss their ideas with peers and experts alike, and grow from their diverse and interdisciplinary perspectives,” said Political Science student Christopher Thone, who is leading this year’s conference. 

During the spring semester, participants will prepare short policy memos with the assistance of a team of workshop facilitators. Strong policy memos will be eligible for publication in Sifting & Winnowing, the Ideas Conference papers, as well as several merit-based scholarships. For example, the Thompson Center on Public Leadership will provide two scholarships for the best policy memos written on the future of energy policy.

At the conference, facilitators will lead workshops where participants can present their policy proposals to peers and faculty members for feedback and discussion. In addition, organizers are planning two panel discussions about the Future of Urban Development and the Internet as a Policy Problem.

More than 100 students, faculty members, and professionals from across the Midwest have participated in the Ideas Conference. Past keynote speakers have included Will Allen, Milwaukee urban farmer and recipient of a McArthur Fellowship, as well as Colonel (Ret.) Sheri Swokowski, transgender rights advocate and retired Army Infantry Officer.

“La Follette School students are driven by strong feelings of civic duty and service to one's community,” said Benjamin Olneck-Brown, an MPA candidate at the La Follette School and workshop coordinator for this year’s conference. “This conference allows students to express that passion through accessible components such as workshops, panel discussions, and policy memos. It’s easy for participants to make meaningful, real contributions to public policy discourse.”

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