Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mabrey focuses on quantitative skills

Steph Mabrey interned with the Partnership for Public Service in Washington, D.C., during the summer of 2013.


After graduating in 2014, Steph Mabrey joined the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau as an analyst.

Steph Mabrey wants to have her career both ways.

She wants to be able to analyze AND interpret someone else’s analysis, ideally in a nonpartisan setting.

A summer fellowship with the Partnership for Public Service in Washington, D.C., gave the second-year public affairs student a new appreciation for nonpartisan work. “My fellowship has furthered my passion for non-partisan service because of the incredible reputation of the Partnership for Public Service,” Mabrey says. “Being a part of an organization that is well-respected and trusted by both sides of the aisle gives one’s analysis and recommendations that much more weight.”

Mabrey used her La Follette School training throughout her fellowship. “The basic knowledge of civil service and federal public management policies I obtained in the Public Management course assisted me in navigating the Partnership for Public Service itself and the organization's programmatic activities,” Mabrey says. “Additionally, I used qualitative research skills (also from Public Management) when participating in and conducting interviews for the projects I am working on. Finally, the quantitative research and analysis skills I obtained through both the statistics courses and Policy Analysis assisted me in performing data analyses and writing up my analyses and recommendations for the final reports.”

Mabrey came to the La Follette School in 2012 with the goal of becoming a policy analyst, ideally at nonpartisan organization that operates in the federal sphere. Quantitative skills are valuable tools in that they allow one to not only analyze but also to understand and interpret an analysis, Mabrey says. “I never want to lose my ability to analyze and interpret, even if someone else is the one performing the analysis. Even if I don’t end up working strictly as a policy analyst, I always want to have those skills to go back to.”

Mabrey earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire in 2012. “I’ve always been interested in public policy,” she says. “Rather than working strictly as an economist for or within the government, I wanted to be more involved in the policy-making process as a whole. A degree in public affairs allows me to continue to strengthen those skills that made me interested in economics in the first place, while improving my understanding of the public sector and policymaking process.”

To gain policy experience, Mabrey worked a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. “On and off, for nearly two years while I was an undergraduate and during my first semester at La Follette, I worked in all of the district offices for Wisconsin's First Congressional District, primarily assisting constituents with federal, state, and local referrals, Social Security Disability issues, and U.S. Department of Agriculture issues,” she says.

Providing those services builds on Mabrey’s undergraduate experience as director of student services for the UW‐Eau Claire Student Senate and as a front-desk manager at a UW‐Eau Claire residence hall. In addition, she served on the Dean of Arts and Sciences Advisory Committee, served as an orientation mentor for incoming freshmen, was a South Africa peer advisor for study‐abroad students and did research regarding impacts of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program on consumption and related behaviors. She also attended Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

At La Follette, Mabrey joined the La Follette School Student Association board as the social co-coordinator to help organize social activities for students. She was re-elected for the 2013-14 school year. “I enjoy being involved in a low-key way,” she says. “I get to help coordinate events that my classmates will (hopefully) have fun at, and what could really be better than that?”

Those activities are part of what builds the La Follette School’s close-knit community, a feature that stood out in contrast to other public affairs schools that Mabrey considered. “I really appreciated the size of the program, in that I thought it would allow me to truly know everyone I was spending the next several years with,” she says. “Additionally, I knew I wanted to stay in the Midwest for graduate school, but I wanted a degree that would allow me to work wherever I wanted after I graduate, and La Follette certainly provides that.”

The network of faculty, students, alumni and staff is another benefit, she adds. “I appreciate that everyone here has a shared interest in policy and that that interest can take so many directions in regard to what people are studying.”

“I love that a lot of the faculty know a lot of students by name,” says Mabrey, who has a project assistantship with professor David Weimer for the 2013-14 school year. “I think it helps in terms of planning a degree program. Everyone comes here with very different interests and focus areas, and having a faculty member who understands who you are and what you’re interested in is extremely important in choosing the right classes and, more generally, helping you to make the most of your time at La Follette.”