Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Saturday, December 17, 2011

Myatt values, uses empirical data

Justin Myatt (Badger Herald photo by John Lemmon)

The belief that objective evidence and rational conclusions can be engineered to craft sound public policy brings Jason Myatt to the La Follette School of Public Affairs.

Myatt is more than halfway through his four-year dual degree in public affairs and law. He came to the University of Wisconsin–Madison law school after working several years with American Appraisal Associates in Milwaukee.

"When I was working, many of my friends and co-workers mentioned that 'you would be a good lawyer,'" says Myatt, who graduated in 2006 with a bachelor of science in chemical engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. "I was considering going back to grad school and then was laid off during the economic downturn, so I decided to take the LSAT and see how things went and I did really well."

During his first year of law school, Myatt realized he wanted a broader background in public policy. "I thought about it as wanting an 'engineering for public policy' approach," Myatt says. "The La Follette School's public affairs program is as perfect of a fit as I could want with my law degree."

Now in his third year, Myatt is a project assistant with the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance. He is compiling and analyzing Wisconsin crime data and writing topic reports from the National Incident Based Reporting System.

The work is exciting — most of it involves topics that interest him, including drug crimes. "I am using all of the statistical analysis tools I learned during my first year at La Follette for my work with the Office of Justice Assistance," Myatt says.

His experience with American Appraisal Associates is an asset to his public affairs work, Myatt says. He conducted appraisals of oil refineries, power plants and other large industrial properties. "The appraisal work was very technical, and my chemical engineering background both aided me greatly in being able to talk to employees and understand more complex, technical matters during site visits, and the ability to understand, construct and utilize cost data for the appraisal," Myatt says. "I still in many ways consider myself an engineer and scientist at heart, and I care deeply about objective evidence and rational conclusions."

"To reach rational conclusions with objective evidence, you need good frameworks and excellent quantitative skills and understanding of problems, along with a thorough qualitative understanding," he adds. "The La Follette School is helping me learn and practice those. I'm using them now, in my personal investigation, research, and quest for understanding of complex policy issues, as well as for my project assistantship."

After he graduates, Myatt is open to exploring a variety of career possibilities. "I see myself using my quantitative and qualitative skills frequently, as I pretty much always want solid empirical data to back up any of my opinions or conclusions," he says. "I'd like to work in a direction that will hopefully improve policy and people's lives in the most effective and meaningful way I can."

— posted updated December 20, 2011