Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Saturday, December 10, 2016

Ruanda McFerren, MPA, MS

Ruanda McFerren, MPA, MS

Fort Smith, Arkansas

Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degree in American studies with sociology minor, Hendrix College, Conway, Arkansas

Professional/research interests
Affordable housing, educational access, and policy implantation and evaluation

Expected graduation date
May 2018

Why a dual degree in public affairs and urban and regional planning
I worked for four years in college admissions before beginning graduate school. While I already had a strong interest in housing and poverty issues, this experience opened my eyes to the fact that where people live has an immense impact on their available educational opportunities. I chose to pursue an MPA and an MS in urban planning to gain a deeper understanding of the policies that shaped the social environments I encountered in my work. Additionally, the combination of these degrees will allow me to assess policies and programs through both an empirical policy analysis lens and a public sector planning implementation lens. Exploring how these two fields relate to each other is very interesting to me.

What drew you to the La Follette School?
I was drawn to La Follette because of the strong social policy focus and the ability to shape my own course of study. Also, the relationships that the La Follette School has with other institutions on campus and across the state really stood out to me. Students here are able to learn from all of these diverse resources.

What courses have you taken in which you’ve done work for real clients?
Two of my Urban Planning courses have been client-based. Over the summer, I took a community-based participatory planning course. Through working with the Tenant Resources Center, data on evictions in Dane County was analyzed and a report presenting the extent of the evictions was compiled. This semester, I have been participating in the Urban Planning Workshop course. The team that I am on has been writing an updated Strategic Housing Plan for Monona, Wisconsin. I’m looking forward to working with different clients and their problems in future courses.

What are your career goals?
Working in the public sector, at the state or local level, is very appealing to me. I want to be able to see the positive impacts of the work that I am doing.

How have your La Follette School courses and/or experiences set you on the path to meeting your career goals?
Beyond strengthening my analytical skills, my experiences at La Follette have really shown the variety of venues in which my skills and interests can be applied to future positions. I’ve gained a deeper understanding of the extent to which different policies work with, or against, each other. Having this big-picture, structural-level view will certainly help me throughout my career.

Advice to prospective La Follette School students?
There is so much that you can learn from your fellow students. Everyone is bringing a huge variety of academic and professional experiences into the classroom, and these really do enrich the quality of discussion. Also, learn to love group projects.

People would be surprised if they knew ...
I held my first elected leadership position in third-grade, serving as my class’ student council representative.