Wisconsin Policy Forum Fellowships

The Wisconsin Policy Forum is seeking applications for the Norman N. Gill and Todd A. Berry fellowships for the 2020-2021 academic year. Our fellows engage in research on key policy issues confronting state and local governments in Wisconsin. The positions are named in honor of Norman Gill and Todd Berry’s long-term commitment to improving government decision making and quality of life in our state. Norman Gill was executive director of the Milwaukee-based Citizens Government Research Bureau (later the Public Policy Forum) for over 40 years, while Todd Berry headed the Madison-based Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance for more than 20 years. Those two organizations merged as the Wisconsin Policy Forum in 2018.

What We Are Looking For

We are looking to support two students enrolled in any Wisconsin public or private graduate degree program in public policy, public administration, urban planning, law, economics, political science, education, or a related field. The Gill fellow will engage in a research project focused on a timely and topical policy or governance issue impacting Milwaukee and/or southeastern Wisconsin. The Berry fellow will engage in a research project focused on a timely and topical policy or governance issue impacting the state of Wisconsin or local governments throughout the state. The results of both projects will be disseminated broadly to the public, the media, and policymakers, including at least one presentation.

The fellows will be supervised and guided by senior staff and are invited to be members of the Forum team, with opportunities to attend staff meetings and Forum events and draw upon the organization’s network of expertise. The fellows are expected to work approximately 8-10 hours per week on their projects, including in-office hours in Milwaukee (Gill fellowship) or Madison (Berry fellowship) as class schedules permit. The fellowships pay a stipend of $7,500 for the nine-month period, which corresponds with the 2020-2021 academic year.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum is an equal opportunity employer, committed to a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Application Process

Applying for a fellowship is a two-step process. The first step is to submit a Letter of Intent (LOI), which must identify the policy issue to be studied and briefly describe the research methodology to be used, the potential impact of the research, and a description of how your academic and career goals would be supported by participation in this program. The LOI should not be more than two pages. A resume or curriculum vitae must accompany the LOI. The deadline for submitting a LOI is March 6, 2020.

From those who submit LOIs, finalists will be selected and notified by March 15, 2020. Finalists will be invited to complete full applications, which must include a more detailed description of the research, a completed application form, transcripts of undergraduate and graduate studies, and one academic or professional letter of support. Full applications will be due by April 3, 2020. A telephone or video chat also may be scheduled.

The fellows will be chosen and notified by April 17, 2020. Note that the final choice of candidates will require the final approval of the Forum’s Fellowship Committee, and the availability of committee members may shift our deadline.

Applicants are invited to propose a research topic of their own design or to choose from the list of possible topics below. Proposals that address one of our core research areas – economic development, education, government finance, or social services – are strongly preferred.

  • In 2011, the Wisconsin legislature enacted Act 10, the controversial law that eliminated most collective bargaining for most public workers such as teachers while allowing districts to save money on health and pension benefits. Both before and since that time, data and anecdotal accounts have indicated increases in teacher turnover as well as shortages, particularly for needs such as special education, bilingual education, and STEM. How has health coverage for teachers changed over the past decade? What has been the experience of school districts as individuals and as a group in this new health insurance environment? How have changes in health insurance coverage impacted teacher recruitment and retention?
  • Recent decisions on major investments in expanded highways and new transit strategies have been guided by traffic and ridership projections developed by our regional planning commissions and state/local transportation agencies. What are the methodologies used to develop those projections? How sound are the assumptions being used, and how accurate have similar projections been in the past? Should changes be considered in the manner in which such projections are formulated, the entities formulating them, and how they are impacting policy decisions?
  • The City of Milwaukee faces a number of highly publicized public health challenges that are difficult and costly to address (including lead poisoning), and substantial racial disparities exist with regard to the health of citizens and public health outcomes. Our previous work on city finances indicates that health department resources have been reduced over the years, and that city health programs are extremely dependent on uncertain federal and state grants. How do the city health department’s service levels compare with peer cities nationally working to address similar problems? To the extent that Milwaukee faces greater public health challenges than peer cities, to what extent can that problem be linked to resources, or are other issues at play?
  • In 2017, the federal government created a new program designed to revitalize economically-distressed, high-poverty areas now identified as economic “Opportunity Zones.” Former governor Scott Walker designated 120 such zones in 40 counties across Wisconsin. To what extent is this program making an impact so far? How can communities throughout the state make the most of the opportunity presented by a federal Opportunity Zone designation? How does Wisconsin’s use of Opportunity Zones compare to neighboring Midwestern states?
  • With continued buyouts and layoffs across the news media, how have diminished media resources affected coverage of state and local governments and school districts in Wisconsin? How many journalists cover those subjects now compared with 10, 20, or 30 years ago? How has the volume of media coverage for state and local policy issues changed over that period?

Questions? Please email Joe Peterangelo at jpeterangelo@wispolicyforum.org.

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Fellowships