By Kaine Korzekwa
Hilary Shager’s career path has always put her at the bridge between academia and public policy — and that’s right where she feels at home. Armed with both a master’s degree in public affairs and PhD in public policy from UW–Madison, she now serves as the associate director of the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs.
Prior to graduate school, she was a secondary education teacher, and her first job out of graduate school was with the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. The department oversees child support, child welfare, early education, as well as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. There she served as an analyst, using the department’s rich data to evaluate its programs.
“I had a wonderful assistantship during my PhD at the Institute for Research on Poverty, and that really led me to my position at the Department for Children and Families,” Shager says. “I’ve always been drawn to working with children or those in poverty ever since I was a teacher. I addressed social policy issues at the classroom level and then became interested in more, so I went back to graduate school. It’s something I’m very passionate about.”
In 2014, she then joined the La Follette School, where she received her master’s degree in 2005. She manages staff, provides leadership to the school, teaches public program evaluation and professional development courses, and advises students on their career paths.
“My position really combines all of my interests. I’m enjoying serving as the liaison between researchers and other audiences.”
During her graduate career she found the Interdisciplinary Training Program through the Wisconsin Center for Education Research to be extremely enriching. It allowed her to attend conferences, network, and gain useful skills.
“Graduate school gave me the skills I needed to pursue a position outside of academia,” she says. “I am very interested in how you translate academic research to applied policy problems and vice versa, and love getting to help academics make their work more accessible to policy makers or help them attend to and solve some of the big policy problems we face today.”