Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Friday, September 2, 2011

Waukau wants to take on complex international issues

The shrinking world draws Hilary "H.J." Waukau to international public affairs.

"The world is becoming increasingly connected in a way never seen before," he says. "The unprecedented level of exchange across borders, not only in trade, commerce and communication, but also in ideology and culture puts a premium on all of us to think about how our actions affect communities around the world."

Hilary "H.J." Waukau


After graduating in May 2012, H.J. Waukau joined the Wisconsin Department of Health Services as a budget and policy analyst.

He points to the single street vendor action's that touched off the Arab Spring, the series of political uprisings taking place in North Africa and the Middle East since December 2010 and the effect of U.S. subsidies for corn and ethanol production, which drove up food prices half a world away. "These global linkages, be they political, social, cultural, economic or technological, make international policy-making intriguing," Waukau says. "International policy can help the world tackle complex issues like climate change, increasing energy demand, economic integration, food demand and security."

H.J. came to the La Follette School after spending four years with JP Cullen & Sons Inc. as a purchasing coordinator, a position he started after graduating from the University of Colorado in 2006. He oversaw the day-to-day accounting and procurement of materials. He gained a good grounding in the operations of a quality business and exposure to people from different backgrounds collaborating to achieve a common goal. "My experience with Cullen also showed me in real-world terms how policy decisions in an unrelated area can have major impacts on my day-to-day affairs," he says. "The 2008 surge in oil prices crippled a lot of construction activity, the same way that the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act had a positive impact on certain facets of the construction industry in Wisconsin, namely road construction."

However, after a few years with Cullen, Waukau decided he needed to shift careers and build on his bachelor's degree in political science. When he was researching graduate programs in political science, he came across the La Follette School and seized on the pragmatic nature of the professional master's curriculum.

As he has worked toward his Master of International Public Affairs, Waukau has come to appreciate the La Follette School faculty's breadth of knowledge. "The faculty draw on their practical experience to construct a curriculum that is applicable in a real-world setting, and they use anecdotes and lessons they have learned throughout their careers to impart their knowledge to students," he says. "The program is very well-rounded with foundations in both theory and experience."

Waukau has participated in many charity groups and initiatives, including Habitat for Humanity and Special Olympics — a habit he brought with him to La Follette when he and seven classmates took part in the February 2011 Polar Plunge for Special Olympics. Waukau serves as treasurer for the La Follette School Student Association and is editor of the group's blog, La Flog.

When he graduates, Waukau is open to working anywhere in the world. "I want to become involved in international public policy in the energy and environmental fields," Waukau says. "I also have interests in security and indigenous rights. My grandfather was a Menominee Indian and environmental activist who lobbied and fought for tribal and indigenous rights. As a person of indigenous descent, I take my heritage very seriously and view my academic and professional pursuits to be in the spirit of my ancestors and forefathers."

Waukau looks forward to working toward outcomes that benefit not only his immediate community, but other communities around the world. "As the world becomes more complex, policies that address the global economy, the environment and access to food and water are becoming paramount," he says.

"I always saw myself trying to make the world a better place through politics and policy," Waukau adds. "The La Follette program is giving me the skills and tools necessary to bring about the positive changes we all seek."

Students to take on chilly challenge for Special Olympics, February 9, 2011, La Follette School News

— updated October 10, 2012