Andrew VanderMeer, MPA

Portrait of Andrew VanderMeerContact Andrew


Grand Rapids, Michigan

Undergraduate education

Bachelor’s degree in philosophy and economics, Wheaton College, IL

Professional/research interests

Education policy, children and families, tax policy, systemic equity and shared growth


Teach For America ’18, Indianapolis Mayor’s Office of Education Innovation High School Teacher of the Year

Expected graduation date

May 2024

Why an MPA?

As a special education teacher with Teach For America in Indianapolis for four years after I graduated from college, I worked hard to create a fantastic learning environment for my students. The unfortunate truth of the matter, however, is that no teacher can ensure their students arrive prepared for the school day. High school is just one concern on a very long list of concerns in the life of a teenager whose family is struggling, and my inspiration to gather expertise here at the La Follette School began with my recognition of those educational barriers my students faced. My hope is that by working toward an equitable economy and a revolutionary educational system, we can make every teacher’s job a little easier by making every kid’s life a little better.

Why the La Follette School?

Beyond the magnificent opportunities UW–Madison offers to make it possible to graduate debt-free from an MPA program, the La Follette School seemed to me to be the perfect blend of a high-caliber program with a great student-faculty ratio. That impression has been borne out – all of my professors have been well-published, notable experts in their field while also remaining totally accessible outside of class. What I didn’t expect is the degree to which the professors, students, and alumni of the La Follette School are part and parcel of so much of government here in Madison, which makes for a wonderful array of career opportunities.

Career goals

I care most about making a measurable impact in people’s lives. I’m energized by innovation, and I’m driven by progress.


I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to serve with the Wisconsin Early Childhood Health Consultation as a graduate project assistant this year. I work directly with the ECHC’s project manager and director to complete operational support duties, maintain the ongoing accuracy of resources for partners, and complete original research into a variety of subject matters related to early care and education. One recent project was to complete a policy scan of fifteen states’ regulations about the care of mildly ill children. I wrote a brief for our partners at the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, and they initiated a conversation about potential revisions to regulatory commentary that ECHC might suggest.

Advice for prospective La Follette School students

One of the strengths of the La Follette School curriculum is that it allows you to craft your own experience. After one year, I’ve taken classes in consumer science, agricultural and applied economics, and economics, and I have future plans for classes in education policy, human development and family studies, and business. Look around for elective classes that you think will be intriguing and build your skillset!

Most challenging La Follette School experience

Introduction to Statistical Methods for Public Policy (PA 818) was a class that introduced me to a skillset I had never had practical or academic experience with in the past, and I had to grow very quickly into those abilities to succeed. I had never taken a college math class before, never coded in Stata (or at all…), and of course had a pack of other classes competing for my attention. With that said…

Most rewarding La Follette School experience?

PA 818! As difficult as it was, I felt like I was learning something new in every single class period, and I wanted to complete an MPA in part to diversify my abilities into a stronger set of quantitative and technical skills. In combination with other classes, I gained a new appreciation for the subtlety of statements researchers make and became more confident in my ability to read research critically.

Volunteer activities

I serve as the treasurer for our homeowner’s association. Last January through April, I volunteered as a volunteer income tax preparer with the UW–Madison Division of Extension Richard Dilley Tax Center.