Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Students celebrate graduation

Forty-nine La Follette School students marked their graduation from the professional master's program with a May 18 ceremony in the Assembly Chamber at the Wisconsin Capitol.

They heard from keynote speaker Wisconsin Senator Bob Jauch, who encouraged graduates to go forward and promote good policy over politics and to reduce the strong partisan divide.

"Our political process needs to be more deliberative and less dictatorial," Jauch said. "We certainly need more transparency and less secrecy as state laws are adopted. ... Today, more than ever, we need your passion, knowledge and dedication to help a government badly in need of repair."

Excellence, diligence, quality, loyalty and desire to do good are just a few of the defining qualities of La Follette School alumni, Jauch said. "La Follette students are long-term thinkers. They ask, 'What is the best policy that will stand the test of time?' ... Through collaboration, hard work and data-driven analysis, La Follette students have learned to promote public policy that aims to improve the lives of all, instead of policies that help one party stay in power."

School director Susan Yackee gave opening remarks and presented awards to students. Katherine Cary received the received the Penniman Prize for her paper "Reducing Foreign Emission Impacts on the United States." Dan Marlin and Michaela Meckel each received the Director's Award in recognition of their outstanding academic records. The major criterion is attained grade-point average, but there also must be evidence of being an outstanding public policy thinker and communicator.

"I was touched when chatting with the parents of two of our student award winners after the ceremony," Yackee says. "These folks were so very proud of their children, and the students were so very deserving."

Master of international public affairs recipient Katie Lorenze was the student speaker. "We have accomplished a great deal," she said. "We have learned everything there is to know about functioning and failing markets and governments. We've mastered policy tools to help people, to make people's lives better. We now know how to not only correct for market inefficiencies but to consider equity as well; to monetize fiscal costs and fiscal benefits, but also social costs and social benefits; how to design and evaluate programs that help poor families, protect the environment, curb corruption ... We really have a lot going for us."

Thirty-four students completed Master of Public Affairs degrees. Fifteen completed Master of International Public Affairs degrees. Of those 49, two completed certificates in energy analysis and policy. Two earned double degrees in urban and regional planning. Three also earned dual degrees in public health, another in law.

"Graduation at the Capitol is always such a nice way to celebrate our students' achievements every year," says student services coordinator Mary Treleven.

This year's student graduation coordinators were Anne Gargano Ahmed and Forrest McKnight.

"I'm excited to see what the future holds for my classmates," says outgoing LSSA president Steve Kulig, who completed his MPA. "From domestic to international public policy, I have no doubt our class is in store for great things."

The new grads also heard from faculty speaker and 2005 alum Hilary Shager, who joined the school as associate director in March. In the fall, she will again teach the course on program evaluation, her area of expertise when she worked for the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families as a research analyst.

In her remarks, Shager noted that when DCF was hiring, members of the search committee were relieved when the candidate pool included La Follette School alumni. When embarking on a project, Shager noted, employees would sometimes say "This is a really complicated project. Can't we get some La Follette students to work on this?"

Recent La Follette School alumni are in demand from employers in the public, private and nonprofit sectors, Shager said. "Your degree, specifically from the La Follette School, is a signal to employers that you have learned from the best faculty; that you have strong analytical skills; and that you have practical problem-solving experience."