The Ideas Conference, organized by students at the La Follette School and Department of Political Science, is back for its fourth year. The conference offers students a unique opportunity to publish and refine their ideas, participate in lively discussions with academics and professionals, and earn scholarships.
The online conference is April 10, with early applications due Dec. 5 at 11:59 p.m. CDT and regular applications due at 11:59 p.m. Jan. 24. Applicants must submit a brief overview (approximately 100 words) of a policy problem they plan to address during the conference.
“The Ideas Conference is an amazing opportunity for students to engage in a wide range of policy areas, share ideas between peers and experts, and ultimately develop a greater appreciation for public policy through diverse perspectives,” said Political Science student Ryan Thiele, who is leading this year’s logistics team. Thiele also is participating in the La Follette School's Undergraduate Certificate in Public Policy program.
During the spring semester, participants will prepare short policy memos to discuss with a team of workshop facilitators, including La Follette School graduate students and professors from the Department of Political Science. Strong policy memos will be eligible for publication in the Sifting & Winnowing Ideas Conference Papers and for several merit-based scholarships. Past issues of Sifting & Winnowing are online.
At the conference, facilitators will lead workshops where participants will present their policy proposals to peers and faculty members for feedback and discussion. In addition, organizers are planning three panel discussions with policy experts and researchers to learn more about topics such as Public Policy in Research and in Practice, Election Security and Reform, and Crisis Management and the COVID-19 Response.
More than 150 students, faculty members, and professionals from across the Midwest have participated in the Ideas Conference. Past keynote speakers have included Will Allen, Milwaukee urban farmer and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, and Colonel (Ret.) Sheri Swokowski, transgender rights advocate and retired Army Infantry Officer.
“Students in political science and public affairs are in constant need to have their ideas heard,” said Kaitlin Kons, a student in the La Follette School’s Undergraduate Certificate in Public Policy program and a conference logistics team member. “This conference allows students to put their passions up for debate, grow intellectually, and receive invaluable feedback that is unavailable in a classroom setting.”