Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Saturday, April 28, 2018

Nathaniel Haack, MPA

Nathaniel Haack, MPA


Undergraduate education
Bachelor of science degree in educational policy and community studies, December 2009

Professional/research interests
The intersection of politics, policy, and media narratives in state government

Expected graduation
May 2020

Why a master’s of public affairs degree?
Before studying at La Follette, I worked for United Way 2-1-1, responding to citizen issues ranging from drug addiction to family homelessness to food insecurity. As I connected families in need with limited community resources, I made a commitment to promote and expand access to basic needs and economic opportunities to all members of our community.

Why the La Follette School?
I was drawn to La Follette by the dedication that the La Follette staff and faculty make to the success of each individual student. Though part of a large research institution, La Follette fosters a culture of community and collaboration that I will carry with me long after graduation.

Career goals
I would like to work as a public sector and/or political consultant focused on local and state government issues.

How have your La Follette School courses and/or experiences set you on the path to meeting your career goals?
Collaborative group projects have strengthened my leadership and teamwork skills while preparing me for projects of increasing responsibility. The La Follette School’s strong emphasis on development of analytical skills has made me a more intelligent consumer of information and increased my ability to use data to create evidence-based narratives framing public policy issues and solutions.

Project assistantships
I hold two project assistantships at UW–Madison. I help manage and supervise an on-campus internship program at the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Educational Achievement, with a specific focus on improving student outcomes for underrepresented students. At the Center for European Studies, I help write and review grant applications, organize and promote events, and provide administrative support to interdepartmental faculty.

Summer internship

I have two internships this summer. I am the lead intern for UW–Madison’s Division of Diversity, Equity, and Educational Achievement. In this role, I supervise 15 interns throughout the division, hosting monthly one-on-one meetings, organizing professional development events, providing project support, managing operational logistics, building an internal hiring pipeline, drafting and monitoring an annual budget, and assembling program reports. 

I am also a policy research intern for a Lieutenant Governor race in Wisconsin and I provide policy research and analysis for the campaign. This analysis is on statewide and regional issues that affect voters and if the candidate wins election could translate into actionable policies. I am working on a large analysis of affordable housing options beyond applying for federal grants. This is a topic that affects all parts of the state and may result in regional variances in policy choices and implementation.

What experiences and skills helped you get the internship?

My work history is in political campaigns, so I had already built the networks required to gain audience with the candidate, but the analytic and professional writing skills at La Follette helped me secure the position.

What courses have you taken in which you’ve done work for real clients? 
In Introduction to Public Management (PA 878), I am working on a client project for the Madison Public Library. My group’s project focuses on the library’s strategic goal of expanding its services to all members of the Madison community, whether they physically visit the library or not. We are presenting our report and recommendations to the Library Director in May 2018.

If any La Follette School alumni and/or friends have helped you with your career path or course work, who was it and how did he or she mentor you?
La Follette School alumna and affiliate Hilary Shager (MPA ’05, PhD ’12) helped me clarify my career goals and understand how to market the value of my experiences. In addition to educational and career advice, Hilary helped me navigate the unique challenges of being a parent in graduate school.

Advice for prospective La Follette School students
Think creatively, engage yourself, appreciate the power of collaboration, and don’t hesitate to challenge the ideas of your colleagues, professors, and yourself.

Most challenging experience at the La Follette School
Going back to school as a parent and one of the older members of my cohort has been a constant challenge as I balance home life, two jobs, and school responsibilities.

Most rewarding experience at the La Follette School
Working on a project for the Madison Public Library has given me the opportunity to influence real change in one of the key institutions in my home community.

How has the La Follette School changed the way you think about public policy?
I have become more receptive to and appreciative of the variety of values, anticipated outcomes, and unforeseen consequences that policymakers must balance.

The Wisconsin Idea
As a Wisconsin native, the Wisconsin Idea has been a formative concept throughout my educational career. The La Follette School emphasizes the importance of applicability. We don’t study public policy as mere observers, but as active stakeholders in shaping the future of our communities.

Previous work experiences
I served in a large variety of roles, including as an information and referral specialist for United Way 2-1-1, a campaign staffer, and a community activist.

La Follette School Student Association (LSSA)
As Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator for LSSA, I will help develop recruitment and outreach strategies to diverse populations and work with faculty to acknowledge and incorporate inclusivity and client-focused perspectives into classroom curricula to help ensure that future policy leaders remain connected with and responsive to the variety of populations they will be serving in their careers.

Volunteer activities
I plan to volunteer with a family homeless shelter in Madison starting this summer.

Anything else?
My favorite aspect of Madison is the quantity and quality of preserved natural areas. I highly encourage all current and future students to get outdoors and enjoy the beautiful parks, lakes, and wildlife in the Madison area.

People would be surprised if they knew that I …
Dance like nobody’s watching … even if everyone is watching.