Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Friday, February 26, 2021

Matthew Hansen, MPA, JD

Matthew Hansen, MPA, JD

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Hometown
Wausau, Wisconsin

Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degree in political science and history, physics certificate, UW–Madison, 2017

Professional/research interests
Environmental policy/law, legislative drafting

Accomplishments
Founded a nonprofit organization

Expected graduation date
May 2022

Why an MPA/JD?
Being obsessed with politics my entire life and having worked in state government for a couple years taught me the value of good governance and policymaking and the impact it could have on people’s lives. Pursuing the dual-degree was an easy choice given the inherent overlap between the law and policy. Many lawyers look at only the black letter of the law and ignore what implications it has on people’s lives; that wasn’t the type of law I wanted to practice.

Why the La Follette School?
I was already enrolled in the Wisconsin Law School and La Follette was a natural extension for the dual-degree program. Aside for this, the La Follette School is a great program—well-respected within state government—that I would’ve applied to aside from the law program.

Career goals
I would love to work in a field that blends my legal background and my policy background. I have always admired the work of legislative drafting bureaus and similar agencies that advise and assist legislatures. Additionally, advising roles within agencies that rely heavily on administrative law and policy implications are fascinating. Overall, I want to be in a smaller-scale environment where real change in people’s lives can be more easily achieved.

How have your La Follette School courses and/or experiences set you on the path to meeting your career goals?
The La Follette School has a been a great academic complement to the law program and has provided me with insights in cost-benefit analysis, policymaking, public budgeting, and economics that my fellow law students don’t currently have. I feel that on top of painting a clearer picture of how well-run governments function, the La Follette School makes me highly marketable and grants me invaluable skills. I wish more people from the Law School would take policy classes.

Teaching assistantship
I have been a teaching assistant in the Department of Political Science my entire time at the La Follette School, serving as the head TA for Introduction to Political Theory (PS 160) this past fall. I absolutely love teaching. It is extremely fulfilling, is personally rewarding, and builds on my own understandings of the subject matter. The opportunity to TA has been invaluable to my academic career, financial situation, and ability to communicate complex information to a wider audience. 

Summer internships
I have worked for Clean Wisconsin as a legal intern, as a research assistant in the Law School for the State Constitution Project, and a nonprofit development intern at the Tesomas Conservation Foundation over my summers in the program.

Internship job responsibilities
Focusing on the nonprofit development intern. I worked mostly on outreach and granting writing, expanding the scope of the organization, and doubling their annual revenue.

 Courses with client-based projects

  • Public Management (PA 878): Brief work with a client in California studying mental health in the workplace. Small report created processing data.
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis (PA 881): Worked with Brown County (in Northeastern Wisconsin) to assess the costs and benefits of removing blue-green algae from the Fox River and Bay of Green Bay. This was a great experience, putting many of the principles of CBA into action, working with an actual client, and hopefully informing future decision making in the county conservation department.
  • Workshop (PA 869): Working on broadband access and broadband grants given through the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. Program evaluation of the grant process and what appears to be effective and what doesn’t. Ongoing.

Advice for prospective La Follette School students
It’s worth the investment. The La Follette School is a great program with excellent students. You will make some great connections for your career, challenge and learn from your colleagues, and build confidence about your own skills and abilities in the workplace.

Most challenging La Follette School experience
Having not worked with math in several years, the jump into economics and statistics was a little bit of a shock, but nothing that can’t be overcome. The workload with projects can be a lot at time, but stick through, it is worth the extra work you put into them.

Most rewarding La Follette School experience
The environment created by my colleagues is very different than law school, it is supportive, open, and not that competitive. I have made some great future contacts and learned a great deal from my La Follette colleagues.

Experience with the Wisconsin Idea
While an undergraduate, I was very familiar with the Wisconsin Idea, taking a class in Wisconsin history and writing an essay that was nominated as the best essay in Wisconsin History. I read the book the Wisconsin Idea by McCarthy and tried to practice it as much as I could in my daily life. I appreciate the La Follette School for offering me the opportunity to work with actual clients and improve the lives of citizens beyond the confines of the university. Opportunities to work with outside groups is one of the most rewarding facets of my La Follette School experience.

Before the La Follette School

  • Undergraduate (Senate Page, Assembly Office intern)
  • Senate Sergeant at Arms office
  • Law School

Outside activities
I am president of the State and Local Government Law Society in the Law School. I also serve as a chief election inspector for the City of Madison and helped manage the campus response team for the November 2020 election.

In addition, I cofounded the Tesomas Conservation Foundation—a 501c3 dedicated to promoting conservation and environmental education at summer camps across Wisconsin. I spend about 10 hours a week working on projects, fundraising, policy development, and communication. I also serve as a judge for National History Day projects for high school students.

 People would be surprised if they knew that I …
… started a collection of Wisconsin Bluebooks while working in the State Senate and since acquired every Bluebook since 1887 expect for 2.