Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Manman Ding, MIPA, EAP

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Hometown
Suzhou, Jiangsu, China

Undergraduate degree
Bachelor’s degree in political science, certificate in integrated liberal studies, UW–Madison

Professional/research interests
Education, energy, international development

Achievements
Phi Beta Kappa

Expected graduation date
2022

Age
26

Why an MIPA?
I was feeling at my previous job that my undergrad education was wasting away, and two years of work have driven me to consider building up some professional skills on the conceptual foundations I had learned. So MPA or MPA-related degrees. I also wanted an international touch. So MIPA it is.

Why the La Follette School?
I was first thrilled by the prospect of returning to Madison. I brought my fiancée with me this time (which is her first time in the U.S.), and I was looking for an institution/university that I am familiar with and boasts a comprehensive research agenda.

Career goals
I am hoping to work in the energy sector to contribute to a greener future.

Experiences that have helped meet your career goals?
I had not had much interest in energy policy before coming to the La Follette School, but now I am an EAP (Energy Analysis and Policy certificate) student seeking a career in energy. The La Follette School offers so many opportunities that you can take advantage of, and you will always have engaged and experienced staff and faculty to help in your search for career direction.

Client-based courses
In Cost-Benefit Analysis (PA 881), our team — three fantastic students plus me — is working for La Crosse County to address its shortage of childcare providers. This project gives me the chance to apply what I learned in PA 818 and PA 880, develop a sense of the day-to-day job of an analyst, and see that I can make some real impact. As an aside, I also get to hear the lectures from Professor Dave Weimer, who is an authoritative expert in this field.

Advice for prospective La Follette School students
Well, you have already made the correct decision in choosing the La Follette School. The rest is just free exploration. But whenever you encounter any sort of difficulties, be sure to reach out. Help will always be given to those who ask for it.

Most challenging La Follette School experience
This experience is unique to me (as far as I know), and I genuinely hope no other students have to endure it ever again. Due to the pandemic, I was not able to come to the U.S., and I made the (highly likely erroneous) decision to do a whole academic year online from China. The time difference was savage, but somehow it worked out. I am deeply indebted to my family, my friends, and everyone at the La Follette School — staff, professors, and classmates — who are super accommodating and have made the experience less challenging for me. As a precautionary note, the period toward the end of a MIPA’s second semester can be intense.

Most rewarding La Follette School experience
After two excruciating online semesters, the most rewarding experience was coming back to Madison and getting back in person. The vibe at the La Follette School is very cozy and snug.

How has the La Follette School changed the way you think about public policy?
Before coming to the La Follette School, I often framed policy questions in general, normative, or qualitative terms. But the La Follette School has taught me that while these concerns matter, we should also care, if not more, about the nuts and bolts of a policy design, the quantitative costs and impacts, and so forth. And yes, it is likely how real-world policy decisions come to be made. And yes, it also becomes way complicated and nuanced to study policies from this angle.

Volunteer activities
I am a nonvoting board member at Wingra School, a small, independent, progressive school serving children 5 to 14 years old. I became involved with Wingra via the course Nonprofit Board Leadership Development (CSCS 742). I am just starting my board service there, but I can say it is different from evaluating policies (of course!), fun, and another, more grassroots form of community service. I would recommend the course to whoever is interested in the nonprofit sector.