La Follette graduate student Mia Williams is the recipient of the 2023 Brenton Health Policy Scholarship, an annual award that recognizes an outstanding La Follette student who plans to pursue a career in the health sector. Williams is pursuing the Master of Public Affairs and Master of Public Health (MPA-MPH) dual degree, and her ultimate career goal is to direct a policy institute or think tank.
The scholarship was created in 2016 to honor Stephen Brenton, a UW–Madison alum who served as President and CEO of the influential Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) from 2002 to 2015. Brenton’s advocacy helped shape the healthcare landscape in Wisconsin and across the country. He continues to be involved in the scholarship and serves on the selection committee along with the La Follette school’s director and associate director. As the scholarship recipient, Williams will have the opportunity to meet Brenton and other members of the WHA Board at an upcoming board meeting.
While completing her bachelor’s degree in psychology at UW–Madison, Williams started her La Follette career by pursuing a certificate in public policy. “I wanted a program that was going to be able to touch on theories and research, but in a practical and hands-on way that prepared me to be a leader in policy spaces,” says Williams of her decision to go on to pursue an MPA with the La Follette School.
The MPA-MPH dual degree turned out to be the perfect combination for Williams, who wanted to add a community health and equity approach to her policymaking education. “Growing up in Chicago, the issues of affordable housing and gentrification pushed me toward the field of public health as a way to understand health outside of a clinical context,” says Williams. “This perspective guided me to the idea that public health is public policy, and I thought the dual degree would offer me practical skills in both fields.”
In July, Williams was selected to act as a graduate mentor for UW–Madison’s Posse Program, a nationwide initiative to support diverse student cohorts through their undergraduate degrees. Williams mentors a group of students from Chicago, her hometown. “It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my graduate education,” she says of the experience. “Most people think that mentorship is about impacting other students, but the scholars that I have had the pleasure of working with have had the most profound impact on me. They are some of the most intelligent, hard-working, and resilient people that I have met on UW–Madison’s campus.
In addition to working for the Posse Program, Williams has worked at University Health Services as a project assistant on a Violence Prevention Communication Strategy. She currently works as a policy intern for the Healthcare Anchor Network and supports the work of their Aligning to Advance Policy initiative group, which focuses on affordable housing and workforce development advocacy. Williams plans to graduate in summer 2024.