Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Victoria Casola, MPA

Victoria Casola Victoria Casola

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Chandler, Arizona

Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degree in political science and history, UW–Madison,

Professional/research interests
Policy analysis, program evaluation, health and education policy

Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society, Honored Instructors Award

Expected graduation date
Spring 2021

Why an MPA?
I interned at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the Wisconsin State Senate, and the American Enterprise Institute and those experiences all had the common theme of wanting to be around policy. When I participated in the Wisconsin in Washington program, I learned that a majority of policy-based jobs prefer a MPA or MPP from their applicants, so here I am!

Why the La Follette School?
Having done my undergraduate degree at UW–Madison, I heard a lot about the school through professors and other students. When I interned at the Department of Health Services during my sophomore year, a La Follette School graduate recommended this program to me, thinking it would be a good fit for my career goals of wanting to be around policy formation and implementation.

Career goals
I would love to work at a think tank in Washington, DC, as a research assistant for the first few years of my career, then switch to a federal agency and work on program and policy analysis, preferably in the Department of Health and Human Services.

How have your La Follette School courses and/or experiences set you on the path to meeting your career goals?
When I talk with La Follette School alumni – especially now that I am halfway done with my degree – I think the La Follette School is fantastic at providing course options with general skills, like being able to navigate STATA or writing a policy memo, which can then be transferred to any field of policy. We aren’t cornered into having knowledge about only one specific policy area in great detail, and I think that makes us versatile candidates in the job market.

Teaching assistantship
When I was a first-year graduate student, I applied to every TAship I could find on the Student Job Center webpage. I originally emailed the Political Science and History Departments asking about openings in addition to sending in applications. I finally heard back about teaching PS 120, even though I didn’t even apply for it. I was so excited! I have also taught PS 104 and am currently the head TA for that course this semester. I really wanted to teach students and be there for other students the way my TAs were for me throughout my undergrad in an academic, professional, and even personal setting. My main responsibilities include leading two to three discussion sections a week with an average of 17 students, holding office hours, answering questions about the course, preparing lessons, grading, and meeting with the professor and other TAs.

Summer internship
My summer internship unfortunately got pushed back until October due to the pandemic, but I am excited to start at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation as a performance analyst intern.

Primary job responsibilities
From my understanding of the position description, my responsibilities will be aiding and assisting the program analysis team in collecting and entering data about WEDC’s programs and help determine if they are running efficiently and effectively.

What experiences and skills helped you get the internship?
I would say my relevant coursework helped me a lot. I was able to talk about the applicable skills learned in my community economic development, statistics, program evaluation, and policy analysis courses that correlated well with the position description. I also have previous experience with adapting to new databases from internships during my undergrad that showed I was able to quickly learn how to use a new one when taught.

Client-based coursework
In Public Management, my team worked with the Community Immigration Law Center on the organization’s structure and reputation. We recommended options for delegating work among the employees and branding its services to the community and to partner organizations based on the material we learned from class. This semester for Cost-Benefit Analysis, I am in a group that is working with the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership on a project about the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account programs in Wisconsin.

Advice for prospective La Follette School students
Your cohort may be small, but honestly, that is one of the best advantages of the program. They are going to be your lifeline for the next two years, so get to know them well!

Most challenging experience at the La Follette School
My most challenging experience had to be Statistics, coding in particular. I am not gifted in the mathematics department, so that class pushed me outside of my comfort zone, but I learned so much!

Most rewarding experience at the La Follette School
I think my most rewarding experience was through my TAship and receiving the Honored Instructors Award. I know it isn’t directly related, but I wouldn’t have gotten it without being a La Follette School student. It was such an honor to know that I was impacting even just one student’s life in the classroom and making it a fun, comfortable environment for students to learn and grow.

How has the La Follette School changed the way you think about public policy?
Coming from a political science background, the La Follette School made me realize that there is more to policy than partisan debate and antics. We look at a policy from an objective point of view and review the evidence in front of us to make the judgment call if the policy is “good” or not.

My favorite restaurant in Madison by far is Mickie’s Dairy Bar, but I am a little biased because I work there! But I also really enjoy Barriques and Michelangelo’s Coffee House.

People would be surprised if they knew that I …
Really want to start a side business and become an at-home baker!

Languages spoken
I used to practice American Sign Language, but it has been a while! I can still communicate and understand sign.