New Certificate in Public Policy students welcomed

Faculty, staff, and students welcomed the second Certificate in Public Policy class of students to the La Follette School on Oct. 28. The class of 127 students represents five schools and colleges across campus: College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, School of Education, School of Human Ecology, School of Business, and College of Letters & Science. Student majors range from anthropology to zoology.


La Follette School Director Susan Webb Yackee welcomed students and highlighted the role they will play in shaping future public policy. “We want to live in a world where evidence and analysis inform our everyday decisionmaking in public policy, and part of that vision is to educate the next generation of public policy leaders,” said Yackee. “We’re really excited that you’re joining us.”

Kohl Undergraduate Education Chair Geoffrey Wallace added that “these are trying times to try and build community, but community is and always has been an important part of the La Follette School. In truth, we have often thought of ourselves as the La Follette family, so on behalf of La Follette School faculty, staff, and students, I would like to welcome you all to the family.”

Wallace also underscored the importance of public policy education. “One of the lessons of the pandemic and our response to it is that now more than ever policy plays an important role in determining outcomes. Outcomes like how the pandemic progresses, whether we can have in-person classes, whether low-income children have enough food to eat, and how quickly and whether the economy recovers. These are policies and outcomes you will have a role in shaping.”

La Follette School Associate Director Steve Kulig (MPA ’14) along with the Student Services staff Mo O’ConnorMarie KokoMary Michaud, and David Wright-Racette introduced themselves and discussed the various ways they support students with course selection, certificate requirements, and identifying and applying for internships, and applying to the graduate programs offered by the La Follette School.

Michaud, the most recent addition to the Student Services staff, will serve as the academic advisor for Certificate in Public Policy students and will teach La Follette School courses.

Four current Certificate in Public Policy students also shared their experiences during a panel discussion.

  • Liliana Teniente is a senior majoring in international studies and pursuing certificates in Chican@ and Latin@ studies, development economics, and public policy. She also works as the administrative coordinator for UW–Madison’s Information Technology Academy and as network coordinator for FairShare CSA Coalition.
  • Michael Sauer is a senior majoring in economics and political science with certificates in South Asian studies, East Asian studies, and public policy. He is editor of the Journal for Undergraduate International Studies, involved with the Alexander Hamilton Society, and in Air Force ROTC.
  • Bhavini Persaud is a senior majoring in retail and consumer behavior with a certificate in public policy. She is workshop coordinator for the National Alliance on Mental Illness-UW and a member of Alpha Phi Omega. Bhavini also is a community outreach intern at the Morgridge Center for Public Service on campus.
  • Joseph McInerney is a senior majoring in political science and pursuing the certificate in public Policy. He has worked as a casework assistant in the Office of Governor Tony Evers since April 2020 and served as a legislative intern for U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman.

All four students remarked on the valuable opportunity to take classes from La Follette School faculty to learn more about public policy and the tools for analyzing policy. They also commented on the value of understanding how policy is made and analyzed, noting the opportunity for careers in and adjacent to public policy because of the broad impact policy has on society.

To round-out the evening, La Follette School faculty who teach undergraduate-level courses introduced themselves and shared information about their courses and research. Professors Tim Smeeding, Denia Garcia, Lindsay Jacobs, Lauren Schmitz, Geoffrey Wallace, Reed Lei, and Sam Trejo expressed their excitement to work with the new students.

The La Follette School will accept the next round of applications to the Certificate in Public Policy programs in May. The undergraduate certificate program is one of the cornerstones of the Kohl Initiative, which was launched in 2019 with a $10 million gift from former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl.