Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, December 3, 2018

Noah Roberts, MPA

Noah Roberts, MPA student Noah Roberts, MPA student

Fitchburg, Wisconsin

Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degree in political science and environmental geography, UW–Madison, May 2018

Professional/research interests
I am very interested in the political application of public policy across all major issue areas. My professional and academic experience includes both domestic and international policy, from education and social policy to international trade and national security.

Expected graduation date
May 2019


Why an MPA?
When I first arrived at UW–Madison as an undergraduate, I did not anticipate pursuing a master’s degree in public affairs. However, I have always been passionate about politics and public policy. After completing a significant portion of my degree in political science and environmental geography, I discovered the La Follette School and found the program to be a perfect fit considering my passions and career interests.

Why the La Follette School?
What really drew me to the La Follette School was the strong commitment to providing students with pragmatic, applicable, and transferable skills. The quantitative and qualitative skills that La Follette students acquire through the core curriculum (Micro and Macroeconomics, Policy Analysis, Public Management, Cost-Benefit Analysis) are applicable in many different career paths. This, coupled with the manifestation of the Wisconsin Idea and the culture of service that’s deeply rooted in the La Follette School’s history and its programming is what caught my attention and convinced me to stay at UW–Madison.

On one of my first days in the program, a faculty member told our cohort, “If you’re interested in making money, you’re in the wrong program. We’re in the business of making the world a better place.” From that moment, I knew I made the right choice.

What skills do you hope to learn at the La Follette School?
I think that one challenge we always face revolves around the communication of public policy ideas and solutions through a political lens. More often than not, there is a wide gap between what makes effective politics and what constitutes sound public policy, and I look forward to utilizing the skills I learn at the La Follette School to help bridge that gap. The more we can make politics about problem solving, the easier it will be for sound public policy to prevail in the political sphere.

Career goals
For at least the next few years, I plan to stay in Wisconsin and continue serving my community. My goal, regardless of the avenue or career path, is to solve the toughest problems that we face as individuals, as communities, and as a greater society. I view public policy as a tool I can use to create meaningful, positive change. Whether that leads me to a career in government, nonprofits, or the private sector, my objective will always remain the same.

What prompted you to run for the Verona School Board in 2016?
I decided to run for school board for a number of reasons. First, I am and always have been deeply passionate about public education and its importance in shaping the future of country. My objective is to ensure that our students, our future generations, receive the best possible education. This means taking on critical, yet largely overlooked issues, such as eliminating disparities in educational outcomes and student mental health. We can always improve the education we offer our K-12 students -- and I am deeply committed to that cause.

At the time, I was a 19-year-old and recent graduate from the Verona Area School District and wanted to bring my unique perspective that often isn’t represented in government. Furthermore, I have always been an advocate for accountable, transparent, and inclusive government and I wanted to use my position as a school board member to elevate all voices throughout our community so that we could come together to address our toughest challenges. The Verona Area School District contains two of the fastest growing municipalities in the state. I saw and continue to see this as a tremendous opportunity to improve how we prepare our students for life after school in the 21st century -- and ensure that every child has the opportunity and support to be successful.

Volunteer activities
In addition to being president of the Verona Area School Board, I have served and continue to serve in leadership roles with several student organizations on campus. I am editor in chief of the Wisconsin International Review, UW-Madison’s premier student-run international relations and foreign policy magazine. Additionally, I serve on the Administrative Advisory Committee for the Wisconsin Union. In the past, I served as policy chair for the Alexander Hamilton Society, a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that aims to cultivate campus debate on salient foreign policy issues and current events.

In student government, I have served on the Associated Students of Madison’s Student Services Finance Committee, which oversees the allocation of $51 million in segregated fees and as a Justice on the Student Judiciary. In my community, I previously served on the Fitchburg Library Board of Directors.

People would be surprised if they knew that I …
At age 22, I have been involved in the oversight and allocation of over $450 million. Through student government, the library board, and as school board member, I have had the honor of a lifetime to participate in so many organizations and institutions that provide essential services to students and community members. Right now, in my role as president of the Verona Area School Board, I have the incredible opportunity to oversee a $200 million capital project that, including construction a new high school, will transform our school district’s facilities and provide countless opportunities for generations and generations of students to come. It really has been an honor and I look forward to pressing on.

Anything else?
I am incredibly grateful for my family. My parents and brothers have always supported me and motivated me to pursue my passions. Thanks to my two older brothers’ own unique interests and passions, I have always been pushed to expand my horizons -- and I know that that has significantly contributed to who I am today.