For Scott Wood, graduate school has been about opportunities — and making the most of them.
In doing so, the second-year La Follette School student has become an expert on Wisconsin's economy and employment prospects, and on domestic violence conviction rates in Milwaukee.
In Fall 2014, Wood collaborated with La Follette School professors Robert Haveman and John Witte, and classmate Rob Stupar to prepare a report for Competitive Wisconsin's BE BOLD 3 initiative on employment growth in the state.
"That project assistantship was a chance to apply a lot of my coursework at La Follette and elsewhere at the university to conduct economic research," says Wood, who is pursuing a Master of Public Affairs. "We used our economics, math and policy analysis skills to make a significant contribution to the report."
Wood learned a lot about accessing and using government data, drawing from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development to create massive datasets. "I used Excel for data visualization and Access to work with the data and come up with meaningful insights," Wood says.
Wood's economic work built on his experience interning with the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office during his first year at the La Follette School. Drafted by 2006 La Follette School alum and assistant DA Peter Tempelis, Wood worked at estimating the effects of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2004 that said prosecutors cannot proceed to trial when a victim or material witness fails to appear to testify against the accused. That ruling, Tempelis wrote in an article for the State Bar of Wisconsin, has particularly affected domestic violence cases with fearful victims and witnesses.
Wood conducted regression analysis of misdemeanor data from 1993-2013 from the Milwaukee County DA's Office's Domestic Violence Unit, which Tempelis leads. Wood found that when holding all else equal, the court decision led to a 1.33 percentage point decrease in the conviction rate for domestic abuse law enforcement referrals.
"As a young intern, to be brought into the executive's office and give a presentation to him and his staff is a great experience," says Wood, who also created a performance "dashboard" in Excel to inform case disposal decision-making and improve the pay-for-performance system.
He adds that he appreciated being able to stop by during Professor David Weimer's office hours and ask his advice about the Milwaukee project.
Wood spent the summer of 2014 interning with the City of Madison's Parks Division, analyzing and managing data and helping to prepare the division's budget. "I worked with section heads to coordinate, facilitate and review their budgets," Wood says. "I calculated salaries and benefits; projected gas, electric and water costs; and estimated other costs at reasonable accounting units. I also developed a report which sought to determine the impact of a $250,000 operating budget Parks service expansion and presented it to Madison's Downtown Coordinating Committee. The skills I learned in La Follette's Introduction to Policy Analysis course greatly enhanced my ability to contribute to this report."
Wood continues his involvement with The First Tee, an international youth organization that promotes life skills and leadership through the game of golf. Wood has worked with the south-central Wisconsin chapter since 2012 and arranged for his public management course to take the organization on as a client. "I grew up playing the game every day, and my position as a golf and life skills coach reinforced my interest in attending La Follette because it showed me I could pursue a career that enhanced the lives of others," Wood says.
Wood is sharing his own leadership skills at La Follette by serving as secretary of the student association, after a year as co-vice president. "I want to make a positive impact on the La Follette student experience and be involved in a student-run organization," he says. "This service and involvement is important because it cultivates leadership and communication, develops time management skills, and expands your network and students, alumni and community members."
This spring, Wood is continuing with the Madison Parks Division and working as a teaching assistant for a School of Social Work research methods course.
"That opportunity, too, shows the value of the La Follette School program," says Wood. "The program offers a lot of meaningful experiences I would not have otherwise found. None of this would have happened without my decision to go to La Follette."