Public Affairs

Administrative Unit:La Follette School of Public Affairs
College/School: College of Letters and Science
Admitting Plans:M.P.A.
Degrees Offered:M.P.A.
Minors and Certificates:Ph.D. Minor

Faculty: Heinrich (director) (Institute for Research on Poverty), Moynihan (associate director) (Public Affairs); Cancian (Social Work, Institute for Research on Poverty), Chinn (Economics), Copelovitch (Political Science), DeLeire (Population Health Sciences), Engel (Economics), Herd (Sociology), Holden (School of Human Ecology), Kamata (Economics), Manion (Political Science), Nemet (Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies), Reschovsky (Public Affairs), Wallace(Economics), Weimer (Political Science), Witte (Political Science), Wolfe (Population Health Sciences, Economics), Yackee (Political Science), Zeitlin (History, Sociology)


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The Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs offers the master of public affairs (M.P.A.) and the master of international public affairs (M.I.P.A.) degrees (the M.I.P.A. is listed in separately in the catalog). These multidisciplinary professional degree programs help students to develop analytical and quantitative skills to apply in careers in public management, policy analysis, and international governance. Curricula for each degree program build on foundational courses taught by core La Follette School faculty. Both programs offer opportunities for students to choose from a wide range of courses to meet individual interests and career goals with guidance from a faculty advisor. For both M.P.A. and M.I.P.A. degrees, students can develop fields of specialization by choosing electives from the many strong departments and programs throughout the university. Fields of specialization reflect major substantive areas of public affairs. For the M.P.A. degree, examples include social and poverty policy, environmental policy, education policy, urban planning, and public finance. For the M.I.P.A. degree, examples include trade and finance, development, business and government, and environmental policy; MIPA students may also choose electives, including intermediate to advanced language courses, that develop specialized expertise in a geographic region.

Students occasionally find it advantageous to earn two graduate degrees concurrently. The La Follette School has a double degree program with the Department of Urban and Regional Planning,a dual degree with the Law School, and with two programs in the School of Medicine and Public Health—neuroscience (Ph.D.) and public health (M.P.H.). La Follette School students may also receive a graduate certificate in energy analysis and policy or transportation management and policy through the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

Master of Public Affairs (M.P.A.)

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Through the master of public affairs (M.P.A.) degree program, professionals and new college graduates learn the skills needed to transform an interest in public affairs into serious careers. The multidisciplinary faculty members are nationally recognized experts in public policy analysis, public management and administration, and specialized policy fields that include social policy, public finance, health policy and management, education policy and environmental policy. With rigorous professional training across several disciplines, La Follette M.P.A. graduates take up positions as managers and analysts in government at all levels, in the rapidly growing nonprofit sector, and in private firms across the United States.

Law and Public Affairs or International Public Affairs (J.D./M.P.A. or J.D./M.I.P.A.)

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Increasingly, careers in the federal, state and local governments as well as nonprofit organizations and private sector businesses require an understanding of public administration, policy analysis, and public affairs, as well as law. Many students choose to pursue the dual law and public affairs degree (master of public affairs or master of international public affairs) because of their interest in employment in government agencies, government relations law practice or in other policy oriented firms and organizations.

A total of 75 credits at the Law School and 36 credits at the La Follette School of Public Affairs are required for the dual degree program. For most students the dual-degree program will add about a year of study to the three years it takes to complete law school, but will save approximately one year of study compared to doing the two programs separately.

Master of Public Affairs and Master of Public Health (M.P.A./M.P.H.)

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The master of public affairs and master of public health dual-degree program prepares health policy professionals as policy analysts and public managers in the increasingly important area of health care. Dual-degree M.P.A./M.P.H. students develop a firm foundation in policy analysis and public management offered by public affairs experts and a deep substantive knowledge in public health that can only be offered through a program in the School of Medicine and Public Health.

Neuroscience and Public Affairs (Ph.D./M.P.A)

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This dual degree program will lead to the Ph.D. in neuroscience (awarded by the Neuroscience Training Program) and a master of public affairs degree, with an emphasis on science and technology policy (awarded by the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs). The neuroscience and public affairs program will educate students who wish to use a critical understanding of neuroscience to inform public policy. The curriculum is designed to integrate training in the neurosciences and public policy. In coming decades, advances in brain science promise to fundamentally transform our understanding of the human mind, behavior, and mental health, posing new challenges for policy in areas such as education, health, welfare, and security. Graduates will pursue academic and policy careers.

Course work and other degree requirements are balanced to enable students to pursue both degrees in an integrated manner. Admission is conducted jointly by the two participating degree programs. The minimum course prerequisites are mathematics through calculus, one semester of microeconomics, one semester of American government and a year each of chemistry, physics, and biology. Prior laboratory research experience, while not required, is strongly recommended. The normal path will be for students to enter the two programs simultaneously in the first year. It is expected that students would complete both degrees within five to six years.

Public Affairs and Urban and Regional Planning (M.P.A. or M.I.P.A. and M.S. in Urban and Regional Planning)

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A double degree in planning and public affairs is available from the Department of Urban and Regional Planning and La Follette School of Public Affairs. The three-year, 66-credit program culminates in an M.S. degree in urban and regional planning and a master of public affairs or master of international public affairs degree. Admission must be secured from both departments, though application for admission need not be simultaneous.


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Successful applicants to the master of public affairs should have transcripts showing at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA (on a 4.0 scale), three references, strong Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores, an introductory course in microeconomics, an introductory course in calculus or statistics, and an American government course. Students with strong quantitative skills can request at the time of admission to waive the microeconomic course prerequisite by pointing to evidence of strong quantitative ability. Applicants without this background may be admitted with the understanding that these courses will be completed before beginning the program.

Financial Aid

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La Follette School fellowships and scholarships are open on a competitive basis to public affairs graduate school applicants. Applicants should indicate their interest in fellowship support by indicating so on the online application. Priority consideration is given to applications received by January 1.

For more information: Admissions, Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs, 1225 Observatory Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-262-9163;;