Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Thursday, March 25, 2021

Mingxin Zhang, MPA, Energy Analysis and Policy Certificate

Mingxin Zhang, MPA, Energy Analysis and Policy Certificate

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Hometown
Mudanjiang, China

Undergraduate education
Bachelor of business administration, finance, minor in applied economics, the Chinese University of Hong Kong

Professional/research interests
Renewable Energy Policies

Expected graduation date
May 2021

Why a MPA?
I have been an active volunteer since I went to college, and I am always willing to help others and try to solve social issues such as lack of education in rural areas, poor living conditions in orphanages, severe air pollution, and so on. Besides, the Quantitative Analyses of Policy Evaluation course I took in my senior year of undergrad really pushed me to the tipping point in my interests.

Career goals
I am considering working for a year or two before applying for a Ph.D. program in energy analysis and policy. I enjoy doing research.

Assistantship
I am a project assistant for Assistant Professor Reed Lei. The general tasks are collecting data from a variety of topics in Chinese politics, such as court/government budget and spending at different administrative levels, governor background information, air quality index, renewable energy production and consumption, etc. The job familiarizes me with Chinese politics, and I have a better understanding of how the policymaking process affects local infrastructure development and interactions among different provinces.

Client-based projects
PA 881: Cost-Benefit Analysis: Green Bay is facing a severe blue-green algae issue, and it threatens public health, local tourism, and fishery. My team’s project worked with Brown County on analyzing the relevant costs and benefits. We designed an economic model between the water quality improvement and housing prices change, and we included other costs involved in the harvesting process. The report provided insights for the county to make decisions about whether to harvest blue-green algae, and if they were interested, how to do it.

Most challenging La Follette School experience
As an international student, I struggled a lot in PA 874: Policy Making Process due to the lack of understanding of U.S. politics and policies. At the very beginning, I was not used to the intensive reading modes in several classes, but after asking for help from professors and fellow students, I caught up little by little. At the end of my first year, after taking several courses in policymaking process and policy analysis and immersing myself in public policy shows (The West Wing), I feel more confident talking about U.S. politics and gaining a better understanding of how to write policy memos that can impact the policymaking process.

Most rewarding La Follette School experience
What has felt rewarding is that most of my policy-related understandings were formed at the La Follette School. The classes I took such as PA 874: Policy Making Process and PA 873: Introduction to Policy Analysis and the seminars I attended (for example, the Weston Roundtable Series offered through the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies) broadened my horizon in the intersection of policy and environmental governance arena and equipped me with policy analysis skills in my studies.

The Wisconsin Idea
I had no idea about the Wisconsin Idea before I came to the La Follette School, but I grew impressed with it. I enjoyed working with real community clients in my classes such as Cost-Benefit Analysis and Workshop. I also participated a semester-long volunteer program to work in a food pantry because I want to contribute to local communities.

Volunteer activities
I have been involved with volunteer activities at the Morgridge Center for Public Service and La Follette School. I also joined in other interesting volunteer activities such as work in Porchlight Inc., which is a nonprofit organization that provides homes for the homeless.

Anything else?
My favorite TV show about public policy and politics is the West Wing. I really enjoyed watching it because it gives me an overview of the typical work in U.S. political institutions. I could even connect some of the stories with policymaking process and public management.

People would be surprised if they knew that I …
… almost dedicated myself to badminton practice every day before the pandemic.