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Student wins city management fellowship in Kansas City

April 8, 2008 By Karen Faster

Throughout her academic career at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Carissa DeCramer has been narrowing her focus. As an undergraduate, she double-majored in international relations and political science. As a graduate student at the La Follette School of Public Affairs, she followed the domestic track.

Now she anticipates the hands-on nature of working for a local government as a fellow with the L.P. Cookingham Management Fellowship program with the city of Kansas City, Mo.

"I’m looking forward to working in a big city and better understanding the dynamics of how local governments operate in metropolitan areas," says DeCramer, who is from Rochester, Minn. "I want to make connections on the ground and see how abstract theory of public affairs fits into day-to-day, local operations."

The Cookingham fellowship is the oldest and one of the most competitive city management fellowships in the nation. DeCramer is the second La Follette student to win the fellowship. Bryan Gadow, from the class of 2005, was the first. He is now an assistant planner with the city of Wayzata, Minn., in suburban Minneapolis. DeCramer and Gadow both enrolled at La Follette through the Accelerated Program, through which undergraduates can complete their master’s in a fifth year of study.

The 12-month fellowship rotates interns through the offices for the city manager, capital improvements and budget, plus a fourth that DeCramer will choose.

This year, environment and sustainability issues are high on Kansas City’s agenda, DeCramer says, and she hopes to contribute to the city’s strategy to rank in the top five of National Geographic’s most environmentally friendly cities.

"The La Follette School gave me the toolbox to prepare me, the skills and the tools," she says. "This fellowship will enable me to identify and develop a specialization using those tools."