Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Friday, March 30, 2018

Morgan Pair, MPA

Morgan Pair, MPA

Englewood, Ohio

Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degree in psychology, minor in biology, University of Dayton, Ohio

Expected graduation date
May 2018


Research interests
Health policy, entitlement programs, mental health policy, Medicaid, Medicare, long-term care

Why an MPA?
As an undergraduate at the University of Dayton, I participated in a three-year program that emphasized civil service and public policy. I also completed an AmeriCorps program at Dayton, which allowed me to take a semester off classes and volunteer full time at a local mental health nonprofit agency. This experience exposed me to programs like Medicaid and Medicare and sparked an interest in health policy, specifically mental health policy.

Why the La Follette School?
I wanted to be in a capitol city such as Madison because of my interest in state government, and La Follette ranks highly in social policy and health policy, which are my particular areas of focus.

Career goals
I want to work in health policy with a specific focus on Medicaid.

How have your La Follette School courses and/or experiences set you on the path to meeting your career goals?
Before graduate school, I had no background in political science, economics, or policy so La Follette has been influential on my academic path and incredibly helpful to me. I gained a foundation of coursework in areas such as economics and statistics and expanded my skill set through courses such as Introduction to Policy Analysis and Cost-Benefit Analysis. I was also able to take classes in social, health, and tax policy, which has helped me discover my passions for policy as well as given me the skills to work in the field.

Project assistantship
I held an hourly position with Professor Bobbi Wolfe, working on her research about neuroscience and poverty policy. She is my academic advisor at La Follette, and during a meeting with her, I shared more about my background in psychology and neuroscience. My main responsibility was to help prepare a presentation she gave in Milwaukee in March 2018 about the impact that poverty has on child brain development.

Summer internship
I participated in the State of Wisconsin’s Summer Affirmative Action Internship Program (SAAIP) in the Department of Health Services’ Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and continue to serve in this position. As a program associate, I investigate FoodShare recipients who are referred to the OIG for trafficking or fraud. I also prepare materials for Administrative Disqualification Hearings when the OIG pursues sanctions on a recipient.

For one project, I constructed a database of referrals the OIG received from certain grocery stores, reviewed the referrals, investigated transactions, identified red flags, and decided whether sanctions should be pursued.

What courses have you taken in which you’ve done work for real clients?
In Cost-Benefit Analysis, we worked with an environmental law firm that wanted to explore further regulations on the frac sand industry in Wisconsin. This was an interesting and challenging project as frac sand mining is a fairly new industry in Wisconsin and there is limited data available. In my capstone course, Workshop in Public Affairs, we are working with the Wisconsin Medical Society to identify possible solutions to the psychiatrist shortage in Wisconsin (particularly focusing on rural areas that lack access to any mental health treatment). We have much more reliable, complete data on this topic, which has allowed us to take a more complete look at the issue.

Advice for prospective La Follette School students?
Venture outside your specific policy area. I am currently in Professor Rourke O’Brien’s Federal Budget and Tax Policy Administration course, and it is one of my favorite classes at the La Follette School. I have learned so much about a topic I never thought I would care about.

Most challenging La Follette School experience
Tie between the first semester of Introduction to Statistical Methods and Cost-Benefit Analysis.

Most rewarding La Follette School experience
I took Evidence-Based Policymaking, and the final project was to present our research in front of Wisconsin legislators. It was very scary but also very rewarding. It was a good feeling to see legislators asking questions and being interested in something I spent so much time on.

How has the La Follette School changed the way you think about public policy?
Before I came to the La Follette School, I had never heard of policy analysis let alone that there is an entire career path for it. I thought all policymaking was done by the legislative branch and had no idea about all the work that happens in executive agencies or scoring agencies like the Congressional Budget Office.

La Follette School Student Association (LSSA) involvement
As LSSA’s community service and outreach coordinator, I plan service events for La Follette School students and am constantly looking for more opportunities!

People would be surprised if they knew that I …
Am a lifelong Girl Scout! Don’t ask me for cookies though; I don’t do that.