Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Saturday, July 16, 2022

Student News - Summer 2022

From left to right: Ciboney Reglos (CiHP), Jean Vilbert (MIPA), and Amelia (Mia) Wagner (MPA) From left to right: Ciboney Reglos (CiHP), Jean Vilbert (MIPA), and Amelia (Mia) Wagner (MPA)

Whether they are interning with high-level officials, getting elected to public office, or receiving prestigious fellowships, La Follette students are working hard to improve public policy. Below are some recent updates from current Master of Public Affairs (MPA), Master of International Public Affairs (MIPA), Undergraduate Certificate in Public Policy (CiPP), and Undergraduate Certificate in Health Policy (CiHP) students.

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Travis Austin (CiPP) was elected to the Town of Berry Board in April. As a member of the town board, he was also appointed by the town chair to the Plan Commission, which oversees zoning and other land use permit applications, as well as the town representative on the Black Earth fire district. Austin was drawn to the Certificate in Public Policy because of his interest in serving his hometown as well as his interest in copyright law in the music industry. He is a political science major and is also pursuing a Certificate in Environmental Studies. Austin is also a Kohl Scholarship recipient for 2022. Outside of his studies, Austin plays the trumpet for the UW–Madison marching band and volunteers with the American Legion Badger Boys State program.

Jon Paul Bechard (MPA) served as moderator for an IRIS event discussing refugee resettlement in Wisconsin with Jewish Social Services in May. The event gave career advice to students interested in working with refugees and participants discussed how educators can support the social-emotional health of refugee students and provide a welcoming environment. Bechard also served IRIS as their semester program assistant and coordinated many other events behind the scenes. This summer, he is interning for Jewish Social Services as a case manager for refugee resettlement. His policy interests are based in human rights advocacy and international development.

Ethan Dickler (MPA) will serve as a generations fellow for the Breakthrough Institute in Berkeley, California this summer. The program includes a boot camp in modern environmental policy, a distinguished speaker series, and guided research. His focus will be on sustainable aquaculture practices and food development. Dickler developed an interest in policy while serving as a freshman representative for the La Crosse Student Association while pursuing his undergraduate degree. His policy interests include environmental and social policy. Dickler is also a graduate representative for the Associated Students of Madison this summer and for the 2022-2023 academic year, where he serves on the Nominations, Legislative Affairs, and Student Activity Center Governing Board Committees.

Kennedy Francois (CiHP) won the Andrea Sperka Award for outstanding public service by a Sociology major. Francois was drawn to the Certificate in Health Policy because she wants to improve access, quality, and cost of healthcare as a future nurse practitioner. She is interested in learning more about how healthcare unfavorably treats socially disadvantaged individuals so she can address this shortcoming both locally and abroad in her career. Francois currently works as a nursing care partner at UW Health Hospital and is a part-time intern for Waterford Union High School District, where she is responsible for updating their health and wellness policies. The internship compliments her summer course, PA 327: Administrative Internship, for which she received the Kohl Scholarship for summer 2022. She is also a member of the executive leadership team of UW–Madison’s Relay for Life, a student organization that fundraises for the American Cancer Society, and volunteers with Global Health Alliance and Bucky's Pre-Health Volunteering Organization. Upon completion of her bachelor’s degree, Francois plans to pursue a BSN from UW–Madison’s School of Nursing.

Stephanie Mertens (MPA) started in June as a communications specialist for the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Forensic Science. This summer, Mertens is also working as a communications intern in the Office of the Secretary at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, where she will rotate between the legislative affairs, policy, communications, and external affairs teams. Before joining the La Follette School, Mertens lived in Washington, D.C. for five and a half years, where she managed the fundraising efforts and events for a K-8 Independent school and worked in nonprofit consulting with a focus in fundraising. Her interests lie in social policy, as well as work at the state and local levels of government. Mertens serves as the social coordinator of the La Follette School Student Association (LSSA).

Sarah Nesci (MPA) will start this summer as a performance evaluation intern for the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau, where she will work on the audit team that is evaluating the Division of Community Corrections. Nesci developed an interest in policy during her time as an AmeriCorp volunteer and as the manager of a small recycling non-profit. After graduation, she hopes to work for a public agency or non-profit that works directly on housing issues, either in a research capacity or working directly with those creating and implementing policy.

Ciboney Reglos (CiHP) will be joining the UW–Madison Social Justice Hub as the operations intern for the 2022-2023 academic year. She will assist with educational curriculum and work to build and strengthen relationships with student organizations and stakeholders across campus that share an interest and passion for social justice. Reglos is currently a Tayo summer fellow through the Filipino Young Leaders Program, where she curates relevant information to help Filipino Americans safeguard their health, well-being, and economic security during the pandemic and conducts research related to Covid-19. “Working in public health and with Filipino populations is the marriage of my two greatest passions, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to use my own cultural knowledge to help out my own community,” says Reglos. She is majoring in global health with Certificates in Health Policy and Southeast Asian Studies.

Adam Riley (MIPA) was selected as one of eight U.S. students and young professionals for the prestigious U.S. Congress – Republic of Korea National Assembly Exchange Program. The program, which takes place in Washington, D.C. and Seoul, South Korea, is designed to broaden the perspectives of Korean and American young people on the legislative process; the history of U.S.—Korean relations; and current economic, political, and security aspects of the bilateral relationship by giving participants firsthand experience of each other’s people and culture. Riley is in the accelerated MIPA program and is interested in transportation policy, particularly high-speed rail. He acts as treasurer of the La Follette School Student Association (LSSA). Riley is also the Wisconsin 4-H international programs coordinator within the UW–Madison Division of Extension, where he develops and facilitates educational programs focused on the skills of global citizenship and supports summer inbound and outbound youth exchanges with countries including South Korea, Japan, Mexico, Norway, and Costa Rica.

Sam Schneider (MPA) started a new position in donor relations with Brookings Metro where he collaborates with funders to help scale high-impact, local policies to a nationwide level. Prior to joining the La Follette School, Schneider served as a development coordinator with the Madison Public Schools Foundation, a local nonprofit working to ensure Madison will have excellent, well-funded public schools in which learning is celebrated and all students graduate ready for college, career, and community involvement. His policy interests include education, mental health, and wealth inequality. After graduation, Schneider is interested in continuing his work in the think tank sector. 

Megan Shaw (MIPA) started a communications specialist internship at the Wisconsin Department of Revenue in May. She will split her time between the State and Local Finance Division and the Office of the Secretary, working with stakeholder outreach and social media engagement, including the launch of the Department of Revenue’s LinkedIn page. Shaw’s policy interests lie in United States/European Union relations and E.U. social media and privacy policies. She is especially interested in the processes of content regulation and privacy during elections. After graduation, Shaw plans to research data regulation policy or technology policy. She completed a project assistantship with the European Studies Department during the 2021-2022 academic year.

Jean Vilbert (MIPA) was the winner of the International Affairs Forum Student Award Competition with an adaptation of an article he wrote for PA 850 this spring. The article, Environmental Protection via Multilevel Governance, was published in an Illinois State University review. Vilbert also recently had an article focused on political economy and governance published in the Yale Journal of International Affairs. He recently accepted a research fellowship at the Mercatus at George Mason University. Vilbert serves as a teaching assistant for the Department of Political Science. He will be writing a book chapter on applying public choice theory to public policy. After receiving his MIPA, Vilbert plans to go on to pursue a PhD in political science with a focus on political economy and government.

Migena Vula (current JD-MPA student) recently started working for the Prime Minister’s Office in Kosovo, where she will work with other senior officers for policy coordination to assist the Ministries with writing and reviewing policy memos. She works closely with the Prime Minister’s chief of staff to ensure the government’s agenda is being met and has already had the chance to sit in on a few meetings with the Prime Minister. After graduation, Vula hopes to work as a public servant or official, so she is eager to see whether working in government is right for her. Vula is excited to be able to work in her home country again. Having grown up in a disputed territory, she pursued her MPA to better understand the role of public institutions in solving large-scale problems and empowering underserved populations. While on campus, Vula serves as a project assistant for WPS Health Solutions, where she assists the senior vice president of government relations in his work with state and federal agencies.

Amelia (Mia) Wagner (MPA) will complete a policy internship this summer in Senator Tammy Baldwin’s office in Washington, D.C. In college, where Wagner majored in political science and journalism with a certificate in gender and women’s studies, they held several positions in political communications including with Senator Baldwin and at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. Wagner also worked for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin as a field organizer in Dane County prior to starting graduate school. Wagner is the 2022-2023 LSSA President and is looking forward to the opportunity to connect with students, faculty, and staff in this role.

Mia Wolfe (CiPP) will begin a summer internship at the Narrative Initiative, a social justice nonprofit that uses narrative power to increase long-term equity. The internship is offered through the Wisconsin in Washington Summer Internship Program, which she was accepted into in December. Wolfe was drawn to the Certificate in Public Policy because she thinks that public policy is an effective tool that can be used to increase equity and improve the overall wellbeing of people in the United States. She is majoring in political science and sociology and eventually plans to pursue an MPA.

Kao Lee Yang (MPA-Neuroscience) was one of fourteen UW–Madison campus members to be named a 2022 Morgridge Fellow. The program supports teaching, research, and scholarly activities that are performed in equitable, mutually beneficial collaboration with communities and community members to fulfill campus and community objectives. Yang studies Alzheimer’s disease, a disease that primarily affects people 65 years or older and is the number one cause of Dementia. After her grandmother passed away from Dementia, Yang decided to pursue a Neuroscience and Public Policy degree to learn more about dementia and how scientific knowledge of dementia could impact policies and practices that affect people living with the illness. Yang is passionate about identifying new ways in which the scientific community can equitably engage members from underrepresented groups as science trainees and research participants. In January 2022, Yang launched @HmongInBioSci on Twitter and uses it to build an online community that supports Hmong-identifying scientists and trainees in the biological sciences and encourages networking for professional development.