Wisconsin high school students visit La Follette through Senate Scholar Program

Kelly Otto, undergraduate academic advisor, addresses visiting high school students
Undergraduate academic advisor Kelly Otto (standing, center) welcomes high school students to a session with Master of Public Affairs students.

This spring, the La Follette School invited high school students to learn about public policy education as part of the Senate Scholar Program, an intensive week-long educational program offered by the Wisconsin State Senate. The program connects Wisconsin high school students with elected officials and a range of others working at the state capitol. This year, four Master of Public Affairs students joined two sessions with a total of 22 high school students. La Follette School undergraduate academic advisor Kelly Otto hosted the sessions.

“The Senate Scholar program gives high school seniors across the state an opportunity to engage directly with their district representatives, the state legislature, the legislative process, and one another,” said Otto. “This is a unique first-hand experience with state government alongside a conversation where graduate students share their personal stories about navigating college and pursuing their academic interests and passions.”

Each group talked about La Follette’s undergraduate certificate programs, and master’s students shared why they decided to pursue an MPA degree and how they used what they learned in their policy courses to pursue their personal passions. Senate Scholar students also discussed the most memorable parts of their week, including meet and greets with senators, learning about how different parts of the legislature are connected, and finding compromises while drafting a bill.

During the January session, MPA student Spencer Johnson, who completed his bachelor’s degree in political science, shared that he enjoys being able to dive deeper into niche policy areas that he did not have a chance to fully explore as an undergraduate. Current La Follette student Ryan Thiele hopes to work in criminal law. Through the MPA program, he shared, he is able to customize his degree and combine his interests in social work, environmental studies, and criminal justice. MPA students Eli Tsarovsky and Angela Maloney joined the February session to share their experiences and insights.

Participating in the Senate Scholar program is one way the La Follette School helps to strengthen the connection between the capitol and the university, demonstrating the school’s commitment to the Wisconsin Idea. Thank you to our participating students, who are helping to inspire high school students from around the state to consider an education in public policy and inform the next generation about the great work the La Follette School is doing!

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