Nearly 20 La Follette School students visited the Legislative Audit Bureau and Legislative Fiscal Bureau on January 26 to learn about career opportunities at the nonpartisan legislative services agencies. Numerous La Follette School alumni work at the agencies in downtown Madison.
State Auditor Joe Chrisman and Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) Director Bob Lang said La Follette School graduates have valuable quantitative and qualitative skills for the agencies, which have extensive onboarding programs and emphasize professional development.
Both agencies also employ numerous alumni, including several who offered insights about their work and answered students’ questions. Deputy State Auditor for Performance Evaluation Paul Stuiber (MA ’88) and Performance Evaluation Director Dean Swenson led the discussion at the Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB).
Swenson noted that not all of the LAB’s work takes place behind a desk. “Field work can take you to interested places,” Swenson said, recalling an audit that required him to wear waders as he accompanied an engineer on bridge inspections.
Noah Natzke (MPA ’12) and Ross Ryan (MPA/MPH ’17) said the LAB has an excellent support system and team leaders give helpful feedback for helping evaluators improve their skills. Like fellow alumni at LFB, Natzke and Ryan said La Follette School courses such as Public Program Evaluation and Policy Analysis gave them a good foundation for succeeding.
“Policy Analysis is the most similar to what I do, explaining a policy or program to someone who may not have that knowledge,” said Christa Pugh (MPA ’14), a fiscal analyst on the Education Team at the LFB.
John Wilson-Tepeli (MPA/MS ’14) agreed, adding that the Public Management Course provided a good foundation in terms of writing skills, especially for quick-turnaround memos. Emma (Schumann) Drilias (MPA ’16) said Accounting and Finance courses were helpful and encouraged students to consider taking courses outside of the La Follette School.
Several alumni also commented on their group projects in the Workshop course. “Remember, if it’s a struggle, it can be a good experience and material for you to talk about in job interviews,” said Rachel Janke (MPA ’12).
In both agencies, the ability to work in a nonpartisan way in a highly partisan environment is critical.
“Our credibility is based on the fact that we function in a nonpartisan way,” said Lang, who also serves on the La Follette School’s Board of Visitors. “We have to guard that.”