Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Molly Gallagher, MPA

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Hometown
Altoona, WI

Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degree in sociology and environmental studies, certificates in gender & women’s studies and integrated liberal studies, UW–Madison, 2013

Accomplishments
Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay, 2014–2016

Professional/research interests
Education and social policy

Expected graduation date
May 2022

Why an MPA?
Several years of working in classrooms, research labs, and other educational arenas shaped my understanding of the shortcomings within education systems. This motivated me to improve learning outcomes for populations left at the margins of education. An MPA degree will allow me to bridge the gap between empirical research and practice and foster the use of analytical approaches to the design and implementation of policy that will position students at the center.

Why the La Follette School?
I love the flexibility! I’ve been able to pair my policy-focused courses at the La Follette School with courses in other schools and departments. Also, I loved living in Madison as an undergrad and was excited return.

Career goals?
My primary goal is to advance policies that expand knowledge, access, and resources to underserved communities. My intent is to pursue this goal through working in state or local government or in policy research.

Assistantship
I am a project assistant for the Center of Financial Security at UW–Madison, assisting with program evaluations with community-based organizations.

Advice for prospective La Follette School students
Don’t be intimidated by professors. Reach out to them, have a conversation, talk about your interests, and learn about theirs.

Most challenging La Follette School experience
It has been difficult being remote this past year and not being able to directly interact with classmates and professors. While I’ve really enjoyed my first year, I cannot wait to get back to campus in person.

Before the La Follette School
I spent two years in Paraguay as a Peace Corps volunteer in the environmental conservation sector. After that, I worked at the University of Chicago in the Center for Early Childhood Research. These experiences were formative in my decision to be part of the decision-making process of shaping and applying progressive policies.

La Follette School Student Association
I am part of the La Follette School Diversity & Inclusion Task Force, which seeks to create a more inclusive and diverse school. I got involved with this group so I could do tangible work to improve educational opportunities for students of color.