Norman N. Gill Civic Engagement Fellowship

The Public Policy Forum is seeking applications for the Norman N. Gill Civic Engagement Fellowship for the 2017–2018 academic year. The fellowship supports research that is directly relevant to key policy issues confronting local governments in southeast Wisconsin. It is named in honor of Norman N. Gill’s long-term commitment to the greater Milwaukee community and to the Citizens Government Research Bureau (now the Public Policy Forum), for which he served as executive director for over 40 years.

What We Are Looking For

The Forum is looking to support a student pursuing graduate education in any Wisconsin public or private graduate degree program in public policy, public administration, urban planning, law, economics, political science, education, geography, or a related field. The fellow will engage in a research project focused on a timely and topical policy or governance issue impacting Milwaukee and/or southeast Wisconsin. The results of the project will be disseminated broadly to the public, the media, and policymakers, including at least one presentation.

The fellow will be supervised and guided by senior staff and is invited to be a member of the Forum team, with opportunities to participate in Forum functions, attend staff meetings, and draw upon the Forum’s network of expertise. The fellow is expected to work approximately 8-10 hours per week on the project, including in-office hours as his or her class schedule permits. The fellowship pays a stipend of $7,500 for the nine-month period, which corresponds with the 2017-2018 academic year.

Application Process

Applying for the Norman N. Gill 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, 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 1, 2017.

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

  • Having a criminal background can represent a significant barrier for individuals seeking employment. How extensive is this problem in Metro Milwaukee? What are the publicly-funded programs currently in place to assist those with criminal backgrounds to secure employment? How effective are those programs? Are there national best practices or programmatic examples from other metro areas that we should consider to help more Milwaukee jobseekers with criminal backgrounds gain employment? Are there specific public policy changes that legislators at the state or local level should consider to achieve that goal?
  • Diminishing state revenues and strict property tax limitations are posing substantial financial challenges for school districts across southeast Wisconsin. Notwithstanding potential efforts to alter the revenue side of the equation, what might be done on the expenditure side to cut costs without sacrificing classroom quality? Specifically, do we have too many school districts in southeast Wisconsin, and where may there be opportunities to consolidate? Would school district consolidation produce substantial savings, and/or would educational quality suffer? How do K-8 and K-12 districts compare in terms of quality and cost?
  • Tax incremental financing (TIF) is an economic development tool used by local governments to support development projects. The Forum has previously explored the use of TIF in southeast Wisconsin and its impacts, but it has been seven years since our last analysis. We are looking to update our previous body of work by exploring the recent use of this tool in Milwaukee and southeast Wisconsin and the impacts it is having. Are we using TIF too much, not enough, or the right amount? Are we using it for the right projects? How do we compare to other metro regions in terms of both the volume of TIFs and the purposes for which they are being used?
  • 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 commission 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?
  • Some view the City of Milwaukee as a drain on state resources, while others see it as a vital economic engine that brings financial benefits to all of Wisconsin. We envision a project that will use State of Wisconsin tax and expenditure data to attempt to answer this question once and for all. What is the impact of the City of Milwaukee on state tax revenues and expenditures? Overall, does the City of Milwaukee receive more through state aids and financial support than it sends back to Madison via tax payments and other contributions?

From those who submit LOIs, finalists will be selected and notified by March 10, 2017. Finalists will be invited to complete the second step in the application process, the full application. Full applications 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 March 31, 2017. A telephone or video chat also may be scheduled. The Fellow will be chosen and notified by April 21, 2017. Note that the final choice of candidate will require the final approval of the Forum’s Norman N. Gill Committee, and the availability of committee members may shift our deadline.

Any questions please email Joe Peterangelo at

Please submit the initital application materials using the form below.


Application Form

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