Jessie Martin, MPA

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Grant Park, IL

Undergraduate Education

Bachelor’s degree in political science, minor in public relations, Purdue University Northwest

Professional/research interests

Public finance, public/program administration

Expected graduation date

May 2022

Why an MPA?

After undergrad, I spent time working in state and local government. While shaping and improving public policy is still a major interest of mine, I took an increasing interest in how government policies and programs are administered. Memories of helping frustrated constituents navigate state bureaucracies to access benefits or services they qualified for but couldn’t access motivate me to better understand these issues. Pursuing an MPA will help me acquire the skills and training necessary to make a difference.

Why the La Follette School?

Early in my grad school search process, I met Mo O’Connor at a graduate school fair in Chicago, and the positive impression she left put La Follette on my radar. The school’s ranking and prestige, diverse course options, and small cohort all appealed to me. The beautiful city and campus, including the Wisconsin State Capitol, also played a role.


I had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for PS 104: Introduction to American Politics and Government and PS 305: Elections and Voting Behavior in the Political Science Department. After working in government and politics, I enjoyed reengaging with the course material and working with the students to help them better understand the concepts. While organizing lesson plans and providing feedback on essays and papers is intended to benefit the students, I took a lot away from the experience both academically and professionally.

What courses have you taken in which you’ve done work for real clients?

In PA 881: Cost-Benefit Analysis, my team worked with a Wisconsin State Representative to quantify the impact of both decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana in Wisconsin. It was a challenging experience, but the lessons learned, including the process of monetizing costs and benefits, was rewarding.

In PA 869: Workshop in Public Affairs, my team developed a report for the Outagamie County Department of Development and Land Services that provided a framework to help identify ideal areas for future housing development or redevelopment in their region. I’ve always had some interest in urban planning and development, so I enjoyed working on this project and learned a great deal from it.

In both projects, I enjoyed getting to know my teammates better and was impressed by the diverse skill sets everyone brought to the table. I learned a lot from them.

Advice for prospective La Follette School students?

Get to know your peers. Imposter syndrome isn’t talked about openly much, but it is a very real thing for many grad students. Having classmates to commiserate with can help you understand where those feelings are coming from, and that you aren’t alone in feeling them. Don’t be afraid to reach out.

Also, brush up on stats and familiarize yourself with Stata before your first semester.

What has been the most rewarding experience at the La Follette School?

It’s hard to top the rewarding feeling of completing those final reports developed for the client projects, but I really enjoyed Professor Wang’s course PA 873: Introduction to Policy Analysis. Everyone works on their own semester-long policy analysis report, and the class is structured in a way that you learn how to put each part of the report together as you progress through the semester.

Before the La Follette School

I worked as a legislative assistant in the Illinois State Senate and as an assistant to the mayor in a suburb of Chicago. I have also worked on political campaigns in Illinois at the state and federal levels.

People would be surprised if they knew that…

My brother and I were in the Senate gallery in the early morning hours (not planned) when John McCain gave his thumbs down vote on Obamacare repeal.