Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, May 22, 2017

Students hone skills through capstone projects for wide range of clients

During practice sessions for presenting their Workshop project reports, Anna Brunner (MPA '17) responds to a question, while Daniel Benson (MPA '17) looks on. During practice sessions for presenting their Workshop project reports, Anna Brunner (MPA '17) responds to a question, while Daniel Benson (MPA '17) looks on.

Graduating students at the La Follette School of Public Affairs addressed household financial management, educational approaches for disadvantaged children, economic development strategies, and other challenging issues through the school’s capstone courses.

Through the Workshop in Public Affairs and Workshop in International Public Affairs courses, the students share their policy analysis skills with public, nonprofit, and private organizations.

These service-learning opportunities give students the opportunity to use the knowledge they gained during the La Follette School’s rigorous two-year graduate program. They also support clients’ efforts to improve the lives of people in Wisconsin and in other states and countries.

“Although students gain critical knowledge during their coursework, there is no substitute for actively applying the skills they have learned,” said Associate Professor J. Michael Collins. “And there’s no better way to do that than these client-based projects.”

Students in the Master of Public Affairs (MPA) and Master of International Public Affairs (MIPA) programs gain practical experience applying political, economic, and statistical analysis and evaluation while providing clients with much-needed resources.

Each of the Class of 2017’s eight teams contributed hundreds of hours to their projects and developed critical insights into current issues, policies, and programs.

For example, one team evaluated international evidence on how the educational outcomes of students in families from low socioeconomic status differed across national schooling systems, and identified approaches that produce improved outcomes for disadvantaged children.

Another group collaborated with Transition Projects Inc. of Portland, Oregon, to perform rigorous analysis of the nonprofit organization’s data and to provide actionable recommendations for helping individuals and families move from homelessness to housing stability.

Julianna Stohs (MIPA ’17) and five classmates investigated opportunities for the Millennium Challenge Corporation to better target its aid initiatives.

“Working with the Millennium Challenge Corporation was an incredible opportunity to hone my analytical and editing skills,” she said. “I learned a great deal about the extent of poverty in upper middle income countries and methods of measuring poverty.”

Meanwhile, Genevieve Carter and four other students worked with the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan organization that brings together people to address some of the world's most complex issues, to identify strategies for insecure borrowers. "The work we did on our report felt relevant and impactful," she said. "Knowing that the Aspen Institute will use our research to forward debt policy makes the workshop course really feel worthwhile."

The 2017 Workshop reports and policy briefs are online.

  • Academic Achievement Among English Learners (ELs) in Wisconsin – Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
  • American Households and Debt Use: Barriers to Successful Financial Management and Targeted Solutions – Aspen Institute
  • Characteristics of Poverty in Upper Middle Income Countries – Millennium Challenge Corporation
  • Climate Council Best Practices – Dane County
  • County-Level Emissions Reduction and Adaptation Policy Alternatives – Dane County
  • From Homelessness to Housing: Exploring Trends and Improving Data to Strengthen Services – Transition Projects, Inc.
  • Innovative Community-Led Development Strategies – City of Madison
  • Leaning Forward with PISA: Best Schooling Practices for Students of Low-Socioeconomic Status – United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

Information for prospective clients also is online along with project reports from 1999 through 2016.