Improving lives through public policy with David Neef ‘15

Written byElizabeth Rose-Arcuri

“I took an interest in studying how the political process works. It was through these classes that I realized that issues in society can be solved through proper public policy analysis.”

David Neef
Graduation Year
Class of 2015
Political Science & History
Lafayette, LA

Where I'm From

I graduated from UL Lafayette and earned my MPA from the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Where I Am

I’m the assistant director at the Kathleen Blanco Public Policy Center.

Where I'm Going

I’m going to spend my career studying economic and revenue policy.

When David Neef came to UL Lafayette to major in political science and history, he found a community of ambitious students and supportive faculty who challenged him.

“I was always surrounded by classmates who encouraged one another to get involved and continue toward a path of success,” he said. “The professors were all phenomenal and each one of them had an area of expertise, from national politics to state politics and pre-law classes to political philosophy.

"I admired how much they were willing to help every student.”

Experience Through Internships & Organizations

As a student, David was able to explore an unexpected interest: public policy.

“I took an interest in studying how the political process works. It was through these classes that I realized that issues in society can be solved through proper public policy analysis,” he said. “That started my interest in public policy, where I began to develop a more data-savvy and quantitative mind.”

David immersed himself in internships and organizations that gave him an important understanding of public policies and how they affected people.

He worked at the Louisiana State Capitol during the final weeks of the legislative session through the Department of Political Science’s Future Leaders Internship Program. David also interned with One Acadiana, Lafayette’s chamber of commerce, where he worked on a tax policy research project. During his senior year, he took on a research project about the process of redistricting in Texas and how gerrymandering affects election outcomes.

He also served as the Student Government Association president on campus, an experience that let him practice what he learned in his courses.

“That gave me the opportunity to listen to the issues facing the student body and therefore make decisions to improve those issues,” he said. “Holding that honor inspired me to pursue a career where I could research and explore policy issues to better my community and lead for the greater good.”

Improving Public Policy in Louisiana

After graduating from UL Lafayette, David earned his Master of Public Affairs. He attended the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, where he studied public financial management, public management, public policy analysis, and economic development.

But returning to Louisiana was in the cards for David.

He worked on higher education policy and the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) in the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance after earning his MPA. Then he transitioned to a role as a fiscal analyst at the Louisiana Legislative Fiscal Office, where he studied state agencies’ budgets, expenditures, and programs and how legislative changes would affect Louisiana’s fiscal situation.

And in 2019, he started working at the Kathleen Blanco Public Policy Center as the assistant director. At the center, he collaborates with other researchers locally and nationally.

Their research focuses on the issues that former Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco championed during her time in office, including education, poverty and economic opportunity, criminal justice reform, health and healthcare, the coast and the environment, and governmental ethics. The aim is to inform and evaluate public policies that affect people across Louisiana.

“I have developed a much better understanding of the critical issues that not only apply to Louisiana but also the issues in the United States and around the world,” David said. “It’s important to understand these issues because it allows public policy professionals to examine the data and research that are necessary to improve every community that faces these challenges.”