Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, July 19, 2021

Students collaborate with Sixteenth Street health centers, other clients

From students' presentation to Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers (SSCHC) From students' presentation to Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers (SSCHC)

Client-based projects provide tremendous opportunities for La Follette School graduate students and local, state, national, and international partners. This year, several projects for the Workshop course focused on issues related to equity and serving under-resourced communities.

One group of students collaborated with Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers (SSCHC), a federally qualified community health center serving primarily low-income patients on the south side of Milwaukee. SSCHC has long recognized that socio-economic factors—such as income, education, employment, public safety, and housing—all contribute to quality and length of life.

The students—Victoria Casola, Trent Claybaugh, Johannes Dreisbach, Sarah Ebben, and Mary Kate O’Leary—focused on improving health and reducing housing insecurity in Milwaukee County. The master’s degree students developed strategies to help SSCHC better identify the social determinants of health needs of its patients and recommendations for improving SSCHC’s ability to connect patients with stable, safe, high-quality housing in Milwaukee.

Their report—Policy, Systems, and Environmental Changes to Address Housing Insecurity—also recommended strategies for SSCHC to more effectively advocate for housing policies that benefit its patients. 

“We don’t have the bandwidth to do this type of detail,” said Jose Salazar, a manager at SSCHC.  Brittany Skonecki, SSCHC’s social services manager, added that “this work is going to have a long-term effect on our patients and our clinic and the way we do things here.”  

Each spring, teams of La Follette School graduate students collaborate with clients in the public, non-governmental, and private sectors to produce research-based, analytical, evaluative, and prescriptive reports about issues of critical importance to the organization. This culminating project is the equivalent of the thesis for a master’s degree in domestic or international public affairs from the La Follette School.

“This is a great example of the kind of outreach inspired by the Wisconsin Idea, UW–Madison’s guiding philosophy, which tells us that education should influence lives beyond the boundaries of the classroom,” said Professor J. Michael Collins, the students’ advisor. “Our advanced students do their best possible work, conscious that our partner organizations will use these reports to make important decisions. It is a win-win for the students and our partners.”

This partnership and others like it demonstrate the La Follette School’s commitment to public outreach, using evidence-based research to serve the public good. Other clients this spring were