Ann Arbor, Michigan
Bachelor’s degree in political studies and international studies from Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, 2015
La Follette School fellow; undergraduate Pi Beta Kappa and graduated magna cum laude
Expected graduation date
Energy Analysis and Policy (EAP)
Why a master of public affairs and EAP certificate?
After graduating in 2015 from Randolph—Macon College, my partner and I moved to Richmond, Virginia, where he had a summer job lined up and I needed to find something to make money. I got a job at a local heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) company called James River Air Conditioning, working as their commercial customer representative. In this position, I learned a lot about the commercial HVAC industry, in general, and had the opportunity to research US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) refrigeration regulations and then communicate my findings to customers that it would impact. At James River Air, I also become a LEED Green Associate and created and managed the Sustainable Buildings Program that focused on energy efficiency for commercial customers. Learning about energy efficiency and refrigerant regulation inspired me to return to school and learn more about these topics and how they relate to policy – EAP was a great fit for that.
Why the La Follette School?
I was mostly interested in the La Follette School because of the EAP program and the proximity to Chicago, where my family lives. Funding from the La Follette School was one of the biggest reasons why I ended up choosing this program over the others that I was accepted into.
That’s a big question. At this point my goals revolve around relationships. I am very interested in meeting as many people in my field and related fields and just learning from them. At this point in my life, I have goals of working in the energy policy field, preferably with regard to utilities and utility regulation. Ultimately, my goal is to be as flexible and positive as possible, learning along the way and being willing to take opportunities as they present themselves, even if they aren’t what I am most interested in at the moment.
How have your La Follette School courses and/or experiences set you on the path to meeting your career goals?
Graduate school has been incredible in helping me find new areas of interest and connecting me with professionals and peers who have been instrumental in setting me on a path that I am confident about. Networking events by the La Follette School and EAP Program have helped me meet a variety of professionals who have become valued contacts and friends. Professor Greg Nemet’s Introduction to Energy Analysis and Policy course (PA 809) in my first semester cemented my newfound interest in energy policy and helped me build confidence with the technical side of energy. Associate Professor Geoffrey Wallace’s statistics courses taught me STATA, which I have been able to use in my part-time job at Seventhwave for various projects. The other course that was extraordinary and really changed the way I see policy problems was Professor Don Moynihan’s Introduction to Public Management course (PA 878).
I am a project assistant (PA) for Professor Nemet, assisting him on his book. This appointment just began, and I am very excited to work with him.
I worked at Seventhwave, an energy efficiency consulting nonprofit organization in Madison. I worked as a research assistant and did field work, depending on the project … essentially, I was an intern who worked on whatever projects needed extra help.
One project looked at how weatherization of multifamily housing affected the health of residents. For this project, I mainly visited affordable housing complexes in Wisconsin, Chicago, and Rhode Island and provided surveys to residents regarding health and their apartment. For another project, I looked at lighting levels in various commercial spaces throughout Wisconsin, measuring light levels and working with my team on organizing and analyzing the data gathered in STATA and Excel. I also did an in-depth quantitative and qualitative analysis of a utility in the southwestern part of the country that is looking for ways to expand rebate programs that incentivize customers to invest in energy-efficient HVAC equipment.
What experiences and skills helped you get the internship?
I originally landed this internship in the fall of my first year. I received a message through the EAP listserv that Seventhwave was looking for an intern for the semester to help with a project that looked at roof-top units on commercial buildings in Michigan. My previous experience working in HVAC provided me with the technical knowledge to understand the project and since then, I have worked on various projects that include skills from qualitative research to statistical analysis.
Client-based course projects
For Introduction to Public Management, my group worked with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to update and re-create their outreach strategies for its members and potential members. We had a really great time working with this client and were very proud of the outcome of our research.
Some of my mentors who stand out are Professor Greg Nemet and Student Services Coordinator Mo O’Connor. I communicated with Greg before beginning the MPA program, and he has consistently helped guide me and answer all of my questions regarding the EAP Program and the energy industry in general. Mo has been one of the most important personal mentors that I’ve had at the La Follette School. She has helped me figure out how to manage my work/life balance and has really helped me transition to Wisconsin from Virginia.
Advice for prospective La Follette School students
Spend a lot of time reflecting on what you’re hoping to get out of grad school, whether that be personal or academic. Grad school has been just as socially and personally challenging and rewarding as it has been academically. I think setting personal goals in tandem with academic/career ones is important when considering schools. I definitely considered personal goals, and the La Follette School has provided me with many opportunities to grow in every aspect of my life, which I am very grateful for.
Most challenging La Follette School experience
Challenging myself to take quantitative-focused courses and figuring those skills out while taking them (with a lot of help from friends and teaching assistants).
Most rewarding La Follette School experience
Finding an industry and potential career path that I can’t wait to learn more about and become more passionate about every day.
How has the La Follette School changed the way you think about public policy?
Public policy is messy … and it’s everywhere. The La Follette School has helped me understand the importance and vastness of public policy, and why it’s imperative that we have trained policy professionals to address the many policy problems that exist.
People would be surprised if they knew that I …
play roller derby for the Madison Rollin’ Dolls as “Mikki Barrage” – come check out a bout sometime!