Undergrad coursework and graduate school success

The La Follette School’s Undergraduate Certificate in Public Policy program and corresponding coursework equips students to continue their studies at the graduate level in technical skills and in-class climate.

Faculty Associate Mary Davis Michaud  highlights three major benefits that students can enjoy by taking La Follette School undergraduate courses: wading into complexity, analyzing applied issues, and gaining familiarity with analytical tools used to analyze public policy.

Ben Mohlke took several La Follette School undergraduate courses before enrolling in the School’s Accelerated program. “The undergraduate coursework allowed me to recognize how important policy is to work on the issues I am passionate about,” says Mohlke, a recipient of the Chancellor’s Scholarship with the Mercile J. Lee Scholars Program (MJLSP). “It always boils down to who makes the laws and how administrators enforce them, and I want the skills to impact that process.”

Through the Accelerated program, Mohlke is completing his bachelor’s degree in political science and conservation biology while starting coursework for his master of international public affairs (MIPA) degree. Mohlke says the La Follette School’s undergraduate courses built a foundation for the quantitative policy and analytical courses he is taking at the graduate level.

Mohlke has tried to take advantage of all the resources that the La Follette School has to offer. This includes attending a speakers’ series where policymakers from diverse backgrounds talk with students about their career paths. He has also discussed his Accelerated student experience at a La Follette School Graduate Admissions Information Session presented during Career and Professional Development Week for the MJLSP.

Mae DeChavez, an accelerated master of public affairs (MPA) student, received a certificate in public policy as an undergraduate student. DeChavez says the policy courses they took complimented their political science degree, illuminating the relationship between policy and the political state.

“Contemporary Public Policy Issues (PA 200), which I took for the certificate program, was really valuable. It got me interested in policy. I am now a teaching assistant for the course and find it gratifying to pass on what I have learned and to watch other students get excited about policy,” says DeChavez.

Hayley Barwick, a second-year master’s student, says the certificate program provided many opportunities to her.

“I didn’t know graduate school was an option for me,” she says. “The certificate allowed me to work with graduate professors, gain foundational policy analysis skills, and most importantly build the confidence to apply for graduate school.”

Barwick says the graduate program is more practical and applied than the certificate. She knows the writing and project-based courses will help with job applications, especially projects with real clients, and in her professional career.

After graduation in May 2022, Barwick hopes to work with a state agency. The wide array of electives helped narrow her policy interests and provided more clarity in her career path. Barwick’s experience as a project assistant for La Follette Associate Professor Christine Durrance also has prepared her for deciphering high-level academic literature, which is common in health policy work.

Prospective MPA and MIPA students who apply before January 1 receive priority consideration for financial support, says Admissions & Advising Coordinator Mo O’Connor.


—written by Mia Wagner