Spotlight: The University of Texas at Austin
May 24, 2013 10:55 AM
Located minutes from the State Capitol in Austin, Texas, the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs sits adjacent to the LBJ Presidential Library on The University of Texas at Austin campus. An APPAM institutional member, the LBJ School of Public Affairs is a professional school that grooms graduates for practice-oriented careers. Offering two master’s degree programs, a doctoral program, an executive master’s program, and 25 dual degree programs, the LBJ School prepares students for effective leadership in public service, equipped with the knowledge and skills to be change agents who add value to society.
Named for the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon Baines Johnson, the LBJ School was founded in 1970 with the goal of creating a novel program that blended the academic with the practical. In an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, the LBJ School applies interdisciplinary teaching methods to provide graduates with critical problem-solving tools for the most important policy challenges of our time. Through internships and yearlong capstone projects, the LBJ School supplies students with necessary research acumen and real-world experience to become leaders of change.
The LBJ School aspires to be the most innovative and forward thinking top-tier public policy school. To that end, the LBJ School offers students the ability to tailor their educational experience to fit their professional goals. Students can choose between two in-house master’s degree programs—the Master of Public Affairs (M.P.A.) and the Master of Global Policy Studies (MGPS)—with 13 specialization areas ranging from international trade to journalism.
A keystone of the LBJ School’s curriculum is the yearlong capstone project known as the Policy Research Project (PRP), in which small groups of students, under the mentorship of a faculty advisor, take on real-world clients with concrete deliverables. For most students, this hands-on experience of working as a team in the practical realm of public policy has proven invaluable in their career trajectories.
Recent PRPs have included “Congress and Social Media,” in which students researched how and why Congress used social media over a one-year timespan. Students not only examined policy implications of social media use by Congress, they also recommended policy changes to the Congressional Research Service, who served as the client for the project.
Clinical Professor Angela Evans led a project titled “Reclamation of the U.S. Congress,” in which students met with high-level public officials to gain their perspective on the state of civility in Congress. Guests in the class included Former Speakers of the House James Wright and Newt Gingrich as well as former Senator John Glenn.
Another PRP of note was “Digital Inclusion in Texas,” in which students researched ways to improve public policies that bridged the digital divide and methods to increase broadband access in under-served communities. As part of the project, students hosted a substantive two-day conference and colloquium.
The LBJ School’s Washington Program provides students with a pathway to federal Washington and access to the school’s extended alumni network within the beltway. The LBJ School is also developing international partnerships to offer students a global perspective and the opportunity to study abroad for extended periods of time. UT Austin also hosts the U.S. Army War College, whose Fellows engage and interact with LBJ School students through both regular academic coursework and through practical, tailored crisis simulations.
Internships are also a vital part of the LBJ School’s education mission; the school strives to have all of its students complete one or more internships in their chosen area of study. In addition, the LBJ School hosts a student internship blog each summer—please visit the “Thinkers and Doers Summer Internship Blog” for personal insights from LBJ School students who are working abroad and at home on myriad policy issues.
This engaging combination of the academic, the practical and the multidisciplinary puts LBJ School students on accelerated paths to leadership positions, which may allow for meaningful change on city, state and national levels in government agencies, businesses, and nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations.
The LBJ School also hosts a robust doctoral program, which offers students research-oriented doctorate training using interdisciplinary theoretical and research paradigms to analyze and shape public policies.
Many of the LBJ School’s 40 full-time faculty members were practitioners prior to entering academic teaching roles, with experiences ranging from federal Washington, city planning, and state legislation or as analysts, lawyers and nonprofit leaders.
Dean of the LBJ School
Robert Hutchings is Dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. Before joining the LBJ School in March 2010, Hutchings was Diplomat in Residence in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He was also faculty chair of the Master in Public Policy program and served for five years as assistant dean of the school.
During a public service leave from Princeton University in 2003-05, he was Chairman of the U.S. National Intelligence Council in Washington. Hutchings’ combined academic and diplomatic career has included service as Fellow and Director of International Studies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Director for European Affairs with the National Security Council, and Special Adviser to the Secretary of State, with the rank of ambassador.
Hutchings also served as deputy director of Radio Free Europe and on the faculty of the University of Virginia, and has held adjunct appointments at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.
Director of the Center for Health and Social Policy
Carolyn Heinrich is the Sid Richardson Professor of Public Affairs and affiliated Professor of Economics, and the Director of the Center for Health and Social Policy.
Prior to her appointment on July 1, 2011, she was the Director of the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Heinrich’s research focuses on social welfare policy, labor force development, public management and econometric methods for program evaluation. Heinrich works directly in her research with governments at all levels, including with the federal government on evaluations of workforce development programs, with states on their social welfare and child support programs, and school districts in the evaluation of supplemental educational services and other educational interventions.
Heinrich also collaborates with nongovernmental organizations such as the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, UNICEF and others in research to improve program and policy design and the impacts and effectiveness of economic and social investments in middle-income and developing countries. Other ongoing projects involve the study of labor market intermediaries and labor market outcomes for low-skilled and disadvantaged workers, performance management and contracting, health-care reform provisions and policy factors that support effective provision of substance abuse treatment services, and conditional cash transfers and related poverty-reduction interventions.
Clinical Professor in Public Policy Practice
Angela Evans joined the LBJ School of Public Affairs as clinical professor of the practice of public policy after serving 30 years in public service to the U.S. Congress. The last 13 of these years she was the Deputy Director of the Congressional Research Service—the Legislative Branch agency created by the U.S. Congress to serve as its primary source for policy research and analysis.
During her long career she worked with Members of Congress and their staffs on all major legislative deliberations, assisting them as they confronted some of the most critical and complex policy problems facing the nation.
As Deputy Director she led major organizational changes that not only enhanced the research capacity of the Service but also improved the effectiveness of critical operations, including: human resources; information resources; finance and budgeting; and technical systems. Among her achievements were the creation of unique management positions to lead the Services’ research and analysis; the development and implementation of an agency-wide research agenda directly aligned with the legislative deliberations of the Congress; the development of new products and services, including the launch of a web site; the introduction of performance standards to evaluate the success of the Service; and the creation of the first federally funded succession plan to address the potential retirement of a large cohort of the workforce.
Michele Deitch is an attorney with over 26 years of experience working on criminal justice policy issues with state and local government officials, corrections officials, judges, and advocates. She holds a joint appointment as a Senior Lecturer at the LBJ School and at the Law School, where she teaches graduate courses in criminal justice policy, juvenile justice policy, and the school-to-prison pipeline. Deitch was awarded a 2005-06 Soros Senior Justice Fellowship by the Open Society Institute of the Soros Foundation, one of the most prestigious prizes for individuals working on criminal justice policy reform.
Deitch's specialties include independent oversight of correctional institutions, institutional reform litigation, prison conditions and management, prison and jail overcrowding, prison privatization, juvenile justice reform, and juveniles in the adult criminal justice system. She holds a J.D. with honors from Harvard Law School, and an M.Sc. in psychology (with a specialization in criminology) from Oxford University (Balliol College).
Most of Deitch’s current research focuses on two issues: independent prison oversight and the management of juvenile offenders. Her work on both subjects has been recognized nationally. Through her courses, Deitch also supervises students conducting high-level research projects on behalf of juvenile justice system stakeholders in Texas. For her work on these issues, Deitch was named “Juvenile Justice Advocate of the Year” in 2010 by the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. Her work with students to address community needs was similarly recognized by the University when she was given UT’s Tower Award for Outstanding Service Learning Professor in 2011.
Assistant Professor of Public Affairs
Varun Rai earned his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University in 2008 with specialization in energy systems and technologies. Before joining the University of Texas at Austin in July 2010, he was a research fellow at the Program on Energy and Sustainable Development (PESD) at Stanford University from 2008-2010. He holds an M.S. from Stanford and a bachelor's degree from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur.
His principal research interests are in technological change, innovation and diffusion; economics of climate change/integrated assessment models; and energy and development. His research combines energy systems modeling with the political economy of energy markets to understand how changes in energy technologies, market conditions, policies and regulation, and environment could impact energy generation.
Rai focuses on interdisciplinary and integrative research in engineering and policy to ensure that the insights from his policy research are rooted in the underlying technical realities. His past research has concentrated on three problems in particular: incentive policies and rates of technological diffusion for carbon capture and storage (CCS); performance and behavior of national oil companies; and strategies for engaging developing countries in global climate change policy.
Rai also created the UT Energy Symposium at The University of Texas at Austin, a weekly for-credit lecture series open to all students that highlight energy-related issues and promotes careers in the field of energy and energy research to undergraduates and graduate students.
Sarah Jane Rehnborg
Lecturer and Associate Director of the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service
Prior to joining the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service, Sarah Jane Rehnborg was Director of Community Engagement for the Charles A. Dana Center at UT Austin. She has written numerous articles and documents in the field and is the author of Starter Kit for Mobilizing Ministry, and Volunteer Youth Training and Leadership, a comprehensive high school curriculum in service and volunteerism that was later adopted by the state of Maryland.
Rehnborg's research interests include public sector volunteerism, assessment of organizations engaging volunteers and national service participants, and the effective management of volunteers in all settings. She is frequently called upon to facilitate groups and to work with organizations in conflict. Rehnborg teaches courses at the LBJ School in the areas of volunteerism, board governance, and civil society issues.
Rehnborg is also responsible for administering the LBJ School’s highly successful Nonprofit Portfolio program, which offers courses focused on philanthropy, volunteerism, nonprofit management and social entrepreneurship.
Christopher T. King
Director of the Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Resources
Christopher King is a senior research scientist, director of the Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Resources, and a lecturer at The University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, where he currently holds the Mike Hogg Professorship in Urban Management. He is a labor economist with nearly four decades experience at the international, national, state and local level, conducting policy and program analysis, designing innovative programs, evaluating impacts and measuring the benefits and costs of education, employment and training interventions.
King has written widely on education, workforce, and social policy. He has received recognition for his teaching, including the prestigious Texas Exes Teaching Award in 2007 and the LBJ School Dean’s Excellence Award in 1994, and, for his contributions to workforce policy, the Central Texas Workforce Edge Award in 2008. In 2012, the Aspen Institute selected him as one of twenty leaders in its inaugural class of Ascend Fellows, all of whom are working on two-generation antipoverty strategies.
The LBJ School is located at 2315 Red River Street, Austin, Texas, 78705. For more information, visit the school's website as well as their Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages.
Kerri Battles contributed this profile.