By Kaine Korzekwa
A passion for public service and foreign languages has taken Alison Patz around the world and back. She spent time in Morocco with the Peace Corps, attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison La Follette School of Public Affairs for a master’s degree, and traveled to Egypt on a Boren fellowship. In an ironic twist of fate, she now works in Washington, D.C. for the same office that awarded her Boren fellowship.
“The public management skills I learned in La Follette were essential for me getting a Boren fellowship and then getting my job back in their office in the Department of Defense. I knew I loved public service after the Peace Corp and knew that La Follette would get me on the right trajectory.”
The Boren program funds undergraduate and graduate students to study critical languages abroad, who must then work for the federal government for one year upon their return. Patz’s required service took her to the Boren program office, where she stayed and is now the associate director. She helps recruit students for the program and helps them fulfill their government service requirement.
“My job within this office is to oversee all aspects of the program,” she explains. “Our students can work in various government organization such as the Defense Department, Homeland Security, the State Department, USAID, the Department of Commerce, the Treasury, among many others. I navigate these different agencies to find positions for our scholars.”
She says the public management courses she took in the La Follette School have been vital to everything she does in her office, from understanding organizational culture, leading and working as a team, working with stakeholders and analyzing policy.
“I would argue that we are building America’s future leaders and I’m very happy my experiences and master’s degree allow me to be the conduit that let’s that happen,” Patz said. “Working for the government, the benefits are really limitless. I get to work with so many like-minded people. The most important thing is trust your abilities and those of your team to work toward a common mission.”