Mitchell Wenzel, MPA

Profile photo of Mitchell WenzelHometown

Jefferson, WI

Undergraduate education

Bachelor’s degree in public administration, minor in psychology, UW–La Crosse

Professional/research interests

Fiscal policy, healthcare, criminal justice

Expected graduation date

May 2023

Why the La Follette School?

La Follette’s excellent reputation is hard to ignore, especially with regard to social policy analysis. Proximity to family was also a major factor after six years living across the state from my family as this program also allows me to live twice as close. Madison in general has a plethora of opportunities for government agencies and nonprofits as the state’s hub of those sectors.

Career goals

I hope to stay in Wisconsin and apply as a policy analyst for a state agency, then work my way up the ladder from there.

Internship

I’ve held a paid internship as a graduate budget intern through Waukesha County’s Budget Division since May 2021. As a perk, my boss is a La Follette alum. I work hands on with the budget staff in the preparation, implementation, and monitoring of the county’s annual adopted budget. Besides various ad hoc projects, I am involved with developing and maintaining multiple financial dashboards (forecasting modules, 6/9/12 month status reports, etc.), evaluating data for variances or any discrepancies, formatting and proofreading various budget documents, and analyzing data for county statistics and trends. Getting an inside perspective on the budget process and interactions with key stakeholders is a valuable experience towards my future career aspirations.

What experiences and skills helped you get the internship?

As an undergraduate, I was vice chair of the Segregated University Fee Allocation Committee (SUFAC) which was a group of students, professors, and administrators that oversaw how to best enrich the campus through the allocation of segregated tuition fee money. Here I learned the importance of Microsoft Excel, which is a useful skill because being proficient in Excel in any analysis field will carry you a long way career-wise. But more importantly, I quickly learned about working with people with different viewpoints on various monetary policies and about collaborating towards an efficient solution.

Work with clients

In Introduction to Policy Analysis (PA 873), our class works on individual analysis projects for “clients” on specific policy issues. My research focused on Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) with deer populations in Wisconsin and the best approach to limit spread. This course provided valuable exposure to how an analysis should be conducted while receiving constructive feedback from professors and classmates.

Mentors

Seth Roca (MIPA ’21) gave me some valuable insight on the importance of quantitative analysis for future related careers and La Follette’s excellent tools to provide those skills to students. As someone who has struggled with statistics in the past, this was a hard pill to swallow, and approaching Introduction to Statistical Methods (PA 818) was a bit overwhelming. But working together with classmates outside of class was a huge gamechanger and allowed me to learn the material more efficiently.

Advice for prospective La Follette School students

I’ve mentioned it a few times already but working and collaborating with classmates is truly the best way to learn the material. Usually if you are on the struggle bus with a class, it is certain that others are as well. It’s great to toss around ideas and to learn in a constructive environment on projects with others.

Most challenging La Follette School experience

I would say adjusting to the large size of UW–Madison and finding my way around campus. I came from the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse which has far fewer students than UW–Madison and the walk across campus is only 10 minutes. Fortunately, many in my cohort went to UW–Madison for their undergraduate studies and were able to give me tips on getting around campus. (The hop on/off campus 80 bus in the winter is CLUTCH).

Most rewarding La Follette School experience

After one year, I would say the semester-long projects (Introduction to Policy Analysis and Public Budgeting in particular) have been my most rewarding experiences. You either love them or hate them, but either way the in-depth analysis that is involved with them, along with the constantly moving pieces, is great preparation for future real-world work.

How has the La Follette School changed the way you think about public policy?

I have learned that public policies are much more nuanced and complex than on the surface. Public policies require solutions that not only address the problems of today, but also down the road long-term. To fully break down policies, you need to approach it through both quantitative methods and through qualitative fields (e.g., psychology, sociology, political science, etc.).

Before the La Follette School

Immediately after graduation (literally the day after commencement), I started working as a clerk at the courts in La Crosse County, where I guided clients through pro-se court filings such as small claims, divorces, temporary restraining orders, name changes, motions, and correspondence between the public and their judiciary. Unfortunately, the entirety of this job was during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which created challenges for the position. After a year in the role, I decided to pursue a degree that would be more involved in policy making processes.

People would be surprised if they knew…

I went skydiving this summer for the first time!

Anything else?

I am convinced the house point system in Harry Potter is flawed (e.g., in “The Sorcerer’s Stone,” you can lose 50 points for your house by being out of bed late, yet you only get 60 points for single-handedly defeating the Dark Lord and saving Hogwarts). This is also tough to get off my chest, but Slytherin got absolutely robbed from the House Cup at the end of “The Sorcerer’s Stone.”