Wisconsin La Follette

… one of the four Reference Programs on the Atlas

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University of Wisconsin – Madison, Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs – MPA

Program Comparison Highlights

Institutional Structure: The Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs is one of 21 colleges and schools at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Note on History. The school was founded in 1967 as the Center for the Study of Public Policy and Administration by Clara Penniman, the first woman to chair the university’s political science department, making it one of the longest established institutions by type for the specific study of public policy. In 1983 it was separated from the department by an act of the Wisconsin Legislature, which established an Institute of Public Affairs named for Wisconsin governor and U.S. senator Robert M. La Follette, Sr. The Institute was upgraded to a School in 1999, and offers a relatively small class size from a competitive international admissions process. (At http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_M._La_Follette_School_of_Public_Affairs, accessed 18 May 2015.)

Curriculum Design: With an 14-course degree, the Wisconsin La Follette Master of Public Affairs (MPA) has a midrange course requirement among the MPP/MPA programs. Our PEACO calculations below suggest that typical students take about 71% of their course work in policy-oriented subjects and 29% in management-oriented subjects. Typical students take about 23% of their course work in subjects with high math-economics content. This places the Wisconsin La Follette MPA in the “medium course requirement, policy-oriented, higher math-economics content” curricular type, along with such programs as the NYU MPA and the Syracuse MPA (see MPP/MPA Curricular Types). Among peers in its curricular type, the Wisconsin La Follette MPA has as a medium number of courses and a medium proportion of courses taught within the school. The competency gap analysis below suggests that a Wisconsin La Follette MPA student taking the required courses and a random selection of listed electives would, on average, graduate with approximately 20 course-weeks (one of the lowest of the programs reviewed to date) of shortfall in the core-competency subject matter identified in MPP/MPA Core Competencies, including shortfalls of 6 course-weeks in Leadership Skills and 3 course-weeks each in: Communication Skills; Ethics, Rights and Accountability; Evaluation and Performance Measurement; and Information and Technology Management.

Professional Program Features: The La Follette School lists its Career Development services at http://www.lafollette.wisc.edu/career-development and its research and public service activities at http://www.lafollette.wisc.edu/research-public-service.

Program Summary

Website: http://www.lafollette.wisc.edu/degreeprograms/mpa.html

University: University of Wisconsin–Madison

Location: Madison, Wisconsin

Degree: Master of Public Affairs (MPA)

Marketing Approach: “The Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin – Madison is a highly ranked program that offers domestic and international degrees in public management and policy analysis. Our strength derives from our core faculty and broader group of faculty affiliates who are part of the internationally renowned social science departments at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Our faculty have international reputations in their academic disciplines, and they have spent the greater part of their careers working on problems of public policy and governance. Our faculty also have close personal links to local, national, and international policymakers. La Follette prides itself in the continued practice of the Wisconsin Idea, a century-long commitment of the University of Wisconsin to extend its expertise beyond the campus borders to solve the problems of the world at large. In the early decades of the twentieth century, Wisconsin’s great social scientists were inventing and adapting the programs of Social Security, Unemployment Compensation, and Workers Compensation so the general society could benefit from the gains made possible by a rapidly changing free market. These social scientists worked closely with political leaders like Robert M. La Follette to help enact legislation that embodied the best social science research. Today, La Follette School faculty, alumni, students, and staff extend the practice of the Wisconsin Idea across the state and around the world through research and outreach best topics that include the design and management of social welfare programs, international currency and trade, analysis of the effects of welfare reform, determinants of health and health care reform, environmental regulation, public management and finance, Social Security, and science and technology.” (At http://www.lafollette.wisc.edu/welcome.html, accessed 21 May 2014.)

Degrees Awarded per Year: “This is the profile of the 2014 class: Size: 44 students” (at http://www.lafollette.wisc.edu/admissions/frequently-asked-questions#what-is-the-profile-of-a-typical-la-follette-entering-class, accessed 18 May 2015)]

Academic Unit within University: The Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs

Related Academic Units and Degrees: The La Follette’s graduate programs are listed, by graduate unit, at http://www.lafollette.wisc.edu/degreeprograms.html.

Posted Tuition: $11,864 fees per year for MPA for residents, $25,192 for non-residents based on Spring 2015 fees at http://registrar.wisc.edu/documents/1154tuition.pdf, accessed 18 May 2015.

Concentration/Curriculum Overview: Through the Master of Public Affairs (MPA) degree program, young professionals and new college graduates learn the skills needed to transform an interest in public affairs into serious careers. The multidisciplinary faculty are nationally recognized experts in public policy analysis, public management and administration, and specialized policy fields that include social policy, public finance, urban planning, health management, and environmental policy.

MPA Degree Requirements

Summary: The MPA degree program, usually completed in two years, is organized around a curriculum of 42 credits (14 one-semester courses) made up of six core courses and eight electives, which may include an internship. The core courses, taught by the La Follette School faculty, help students to build their knowledge of the policy process, acquire skills in microeconomic and statistical analysis, develop competence in public management and public policy analysis, and apply their knowledge and analytical tools to real-world problems. In addition to the required core courses, MPA students choose electives to develop specialized knowledge in policy fields that match their interests and career goals. The policy areas listed are: Policy Analysis; Public/Nonprofit Management and Administration; Public Finance and Budgeting; Health Policy and Management; Homeland Security and Defence; Energy and Environmental Policy; Social and Poverty Policy; Education Policy; City Management and Urban Policy (at http://www.lafollette.wisc.edu/degree-programs/policy-areas, accessed 8 September 2015).

Duration: 2 years (four terms of full-time study).

Academic Prerequisite: The University of Wisconsin – Madison Graduate School requires a minimum undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 in all previous academic programs. One official transcript is sent directly to the La Follette School of Public Affairs. More consideration is given to grades in prerequisite courses and those taken in the last two years of the student’s undergraduate work.

Number of One-Semester-Equivalent Courses Required for Completion: 14

Number of Required Courses: 6

Number of Electives Typically Taken (difference between above two entries): 8

Number of Electives Offered within Program: 38

Comprehensive Examination: No

Thesis Required: No

Internship Required: No, but option available

International Study Required: No

Co-curricular Activities Supportive to Degree

Professional Development and Career Support: Yes

Student-run Journal: No

Applied Projects: No

Pro Bono Consulting: No

Courses Offered: The full list of current La Follette courses is found at: http://www.lafollette.wisc.edu/degree-programs/course-listing (accessed 20 May 2015). In the Course Map below, required courses are indicated by (R).

Course Material Online: An extensive collection of syllabi is available online at http://www.lafollette.wisc.edu/degree-programs/course-listing (accessed 20 May 2015).

Course Map for Wisconsin MPA

(R indicates required course)

and Skills

Policy Analysis and Process

PA873 Introduction to Policy Analysis (R)

PA874 Policy Making Process (R)

Implementation and Delivery

PA878 Introduction to Public Management (R)

PA885 Advanced Public Management

PA895 Performance Management

Economic Analysis

PA880 Microeconomic Policy Analysis (R)

Quantitative Methods

PA818 Introduction to Statistical Methods for Public Policy Analysis (R)

PA819 Advanced Statistical Methods for Public Policy Analysis

PA974 Quantitative Methods for Social Science Research

Analytic Methods

PA881 Cost-Benefit Analysis

PA974 Qualitative Methods for Social Science Research

Leadership Skills
Communication Skills

Multiple Subjects

Capstone Courses, etc.

PA869 Workshop in Public Affairs (R)

PA800 Professional Development Workshop

PA802 Public Affairs Seminar Series

PA827 Administrative Internship

and Context

Governance and Institutions
Ethics, Rights and Accountability
Socioeconomic and Political Context

PA883 Politics of Poverty, Inequality, and Social Policy

PA888 Comparative and National Social Policy

PA974 Politics of State Policy Issues

Global Context

PA850 International Governance


Public Financial Management

PA890 Federal Budget and Tax Policy and Administration

PA892 Public Budgeting

Evaluation and Performance Measurement

PA871 Public Program Evaluation

Human Resource Management

PA875 Public Personnel Administration

Information and Technology Management
Regulatory Policy and Management
Local Government Management

PA891 State and Local Government Finance

Nonprofit Management and Advocacy

PA887 Nonprofit Leadership

PA974 Nonprofit and Philanthropic Organizations

PA974 Influencing Political Systems for Social Change


Macroeconomic Policy

PA854 Macroeconomic Policy and International Financial Regulation

PA974 Financing Government in an Era of Growing Deficits

PA 974 Monetary and Financial Policy in the Wake of the Financial Crisis

International Development

PA857 Political Economy of Corruption and Good Governance

PA974 Contemporary Issues in Development Policy

PA974 International Development Policy

PA974 International Program Evaluation

Public Finance and Social Policy

PA882 Social Welfare Policy and Management

PA974 Comparative Family Policy


PA548 Economics of Health Care

PA864 Health Policy and Policy Design


PA765 Issues in Educational Policy Analysis

PA795 Economics of Education

Employment, Labour and Immigration

PA974 Human Trafficking and Involuntary Servitude

Cities, Urban and Regional Development

PA820 Community Economic Analysis

Environment and Sustainability

PA866 Global Environmental Governance

Agriculture and Resources
Science, Technology and Innovation
Industry, Trade and Investment

PA856 Trade, Competition, and Governance in a Global Economy

Energy, Transport and Infrastructure

PA809 Introduction to Energy Analysis and Policy

Defence, Security and Foreign Relations

PA860 Workshop in International Public Affairs

Policing and Justice Administration
Arts and Culture
Financial Markets

Instructional Distribution (PEACO Profile): The table below indicates the distribution of instruction offered, based on the course assignments to subjects in the Course Map below, weighted by estimated enrolment determined by the PEACO Algorithm.Source: At http://www.lafollette.wisc.edu/degree-programs/master-of-public-affairs and related sites (accessed 23 February 2015).

WisconsinPEACOPage created by: Ian Clark, last updated 4 June 2016.