Neil Janes – MIPA, MS URPL, BESR certificate

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Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Undergraduate education

Bachelor’s degree in international studies, certificate in European studies, German, UW–Madison, 2019

Professional/research interests

Sustainable development, land use, ESG and public-private partnerships


Freiburg-Madison Sister City Scholarship recipient

Expected graduation date


Why a MIPA?

My undergraduate background is in international relations. I had the opportunity to study abroad in Freiburg, Germany. Seeing how different countries and regions coordinate land use and development practices led me to pursue the MIPA degree. I am particularly interested in the cross-section between international and sustainable development and international planning.

Why the La Follette School?

I started my graduate education in urban and regional planning and, in my first year, added the Master of International Public Affairs (MIPA) degree and Business, Environment and Social Responsibility Certificate program. I was always interested in international development, governance, and public policy and was hoping to pursue graduate school. La Follette School alumni in similar roles to what I hope to do highly recommended the program. Academically and professionally, I sought a challenging program that was a catalyst in its field. I was drawn to the prestige, longevity, and history of the La Follette School.

Career goals

I am interested in working in sustainable development policy in and across North America and Europe. I am currently exploring related career opportunities internationally in public affairs and urban planning. I have experience working in regional planning, the transportation sector, and think tanks. One of my dream jobs is to work for the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).

How have your La Follette School courses and/or experiences set you on the path to meeting your career goals?

While only a first-year La Follette School student, I had the opportunity to take PA 974: China and the Future of Foreign Policy with David Rank, the former U.S. deputy chief of mission to China. This seminar-style course provided applicable skills and the opportunity to hear from distinguished professionals in foreign affairs. PA 880: Microeconomic Policy Analysis has provided an excellent foundation for the cross-overs between planning, policy, and public affairs.


I was a teaching assistant for the Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture in two courses. One was A Wisconsin Idea seminar on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic. The other was a new course, Welcome to your Urban Future, which covered basic urban theory and practices from a variety of fields, backgrounds, and professions. I was interested in the theories and foundations that these courses taught and had the opportunity to provide a guest lecture in one of them.


This past summer, I was an intern with the Greater Madison MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization). MPOs are regional transportation planning organizations that focus on providing federal funding to local transportation providers. Formerly the Madison Area Transportation Planning Board, the MPO works closely with Metro transit, as well as companies and businesses in the greater Madison area to provide convenient and affordable transportation options. They also house Roundtrip, a transportation demand management program aimed at reducing regional vehicle miles traveled as part of Dane County’s sustainability goals.

Internship responsibilities

The MPO was in the process of updating its Regional Transportation Plan, which outlines transportation goals and priorities for the region (as opposed to each municipality). The MPO recently went through a rebranding and was focused on increasing its marketing and outreach presence. I was involved heavily in the Communications and Outreach workgroup and worked towards increasing publicity and coverage of the MPO and the update. My primary job responsibilities included running a social media campaign for the transportation plan update and writing and disseminating news releases. I was also involved in general public survey analysis.

Experiences and skills that helped you get the internship

While not part of the La Follette School, one of the courses that helped me get this internship was an urban planning design course on core disciplinary and applied creative suite skills. I learned how to use geographic information system (GIS) software and Adobe Creative Cloud. I was also a researcher with a think tank on campus, and the professional writing and communications skills I built in that position, as well as in PA 987, were integral in helping me get the internship.

Most challenging La Follette School experience

Learning and surviving statistics is probably the most challenging experience many of us face in our time at the La Follette School. While the coursework and content can be challenging, the skills built as part of these analysis courses are integral to professional practice.

Volunteer activities

I am the faculty liaison with the Wisconsin Student Planning Organization and a member of the U.S. Green Building Council Emerging Professionals group. I also volunteer my time with the Federal Planning Division’s Student Representatives.