La Follette students secure competitive positions across campus

Aerial photo of the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus from Lake MendotaStudents in the La Follette School’s MPA and MIPA programs are competitive candidates for assistantships and fellowships across campus. These opportunities provide students not only financial benefits such as tuition remission, but also hands-on experience in conducting research, teaching, and policy analysis that allows them to translate their passion for public policy into meaningful careers after graduation.

While the La Follette School offers a limited number of competitive fellowships to incoming graduate students, many other students find funding through resources on campus. Students receive support from the La Follette School’s stellar student services team, including director of career and employer services Marie Koko and graduate program manager Mo O’Connor, in exploring resources and strategies for finding funding. “We teach students to fish and expect them to use knowledge of that process and resources to feed themselves,” said O’Connor.

As soon as they are admitted to the MPA or MIPA program, students are encouraged to begin seeking out funding options. Students who pursue funding early on tend to be more successful in securing graduate assistantships, which provide a monthly stipend, tuition remission, and low-cost health insurance for appointments at or above 33.4%. Graduate assistants teach, conduct research, or complete a wide range of projects through these on-campus assistantships. Other students find off-campus jobs at the Capitol or in other Madison organizations. Koko and O’Connor help to connect students with the many available funding options. Koko’s connections across campus and beyond allow her to share a steady stream of available positions with students via regular updates to a shared Google sheet. There are also many positions available through the Student Job Center.

Portrait of Richmond Panford
Richmond Panford

Richmond Panford secured a project assistantship with the Universities of Wisconsin in the Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging shortly after joining the MPA program in fall 2023. He has worked on two major projects that focus on rewarding people who have promoted equitable access to education for underrepresented people, the P.B. Poorman/Outstanding Women of Color Award and the Regent Diversity Award. He has participated in policy meetings related to finance, administration, and academic affairs, as well as leadership and peer-to-peer seminars. Panford says the experience has already improved his teamwork, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills, and he has learned about web page creation and editing with WordPress. “I’ve also developed insights on the strategic goals of the Universities of Wisconsin and how I can help my office achieve its missions in line with the strategic goals,” says Panford.

Students are also encouraged to leverage connections and networks from previous experiences and to expand their networks on campus. For example, students who have a background in political science or international relations might reach out to those departments on campus to find teaching assistantships – either by leveraging connections they made during their undergraduate degree at UW–Madison or by forging new connections.

Portrait of Ali Mammadov
Ali Mammadov

MPA student Ali Mammadov teaches undergraduate students through his role as a teaching assistant (TA) in the International Studies Department. Mammadov leads discussion sessions, provides academic guidance to enhance students’ understanding of global affairs and cultures, and collaborates with professors to develop course materials and grade assignments and exams. “My role extends to mentoring and guiding students, and fostering an engaging and inclusive learning environment, with the ultimate goal of contributing to the academic success and development of future global leaders,” says Mammadov. Having worked as a tutor for over three years at ADA University before coming to UW–Madison, he has found working as a TA to be a very rewarding experience. “I see teaching as one of the greatest tools to make a positive impact in the lives of people,” says Mammadov.

“These positions really enrich students’ experiences in the program,” says graduate program manager Mo O’Connor. “The teaching, research, and networking skills they learn can be invaluable.”

The majority of La Follette MPA and MIPA students secure assistantships or fellowships that provide tuition remission, and this number is growing thanks to funding for project assistantships through the Herb Kohl Public Service Research Competition and the growth of the school’s undergraduate certificate programs, which have provided more teaching opportunities to graduate students over the past few years. As of fall 2023, 80% of MPA and MIPA students held positions that provided tuition remission. Students who do not receive funding through fellowships or assistantships may have other arrangements, such as holding other on- or off-campus positions. This high success rate in securing funding reflects the many resources available to students.

Portrait of Courtney Clark
Courtney Clark

Since last fall, MPA student Courtney Clark has been working as a project assistant for La Follette School Assistant Professor Mariel Barnes on a project studying crime in the vicinity of two different types of domestic violence shelters across the country. The project is quite new, so Clark has had the chance to learn about the beginning stages of research and the importance of collecting thorough and correct data. “I am so lucky to get to work with Professor Barnes on this project, and I hope to be able to continue working with her to gain more insight into this topic as the study progresses,” says Clark.

The relatively affordable cost of tuition at UW–Madison as well as the modest cost of living in Madison makes an MPA or MIPA degree from the La Follette School a great value. In fact, a Wall Street Journal analysis that examined graduates’ debt and earning potential upon graduation showed that the La Follette School offers one of the best values among public policy master’s degrees in the country. This means that while some La Follette students take out no debt during graduate school, the students who do can expect a strong return on their investment. The affordable cost of attendance coupled with the availability of positions that provide funding to students who work hard to secure them helps to ensure that La Follette graduate students graduate ready to make a positive difference in Wisconsin, across the country, and abroad.

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