Alumni Board Members | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

Alumni Board Members

LBJ School Alumni Board

Executive Committee

President: Josh Levine
President-elect: Lauren Oertel
Recognition Committee Chair: Stephen Niemeyer
Outreach Committee Chair: Greg Conte
Career Committee Chair: Christine Gendron
Giving Committee Chair: Casey Kelley
Nominations and Governance Chair: Josh Levine
Past President: Jennifer Poulakidas 

Members

Shilpa Bakre's (MPAff '09) career in communications spans more than two decades. She has cultivated marketing and public relations endeavors for a prominent downtown contemporary arts museum; managed elaborate communications efforts for four consecutive Olympic Games (the culmination of these efforts was winning an Emmy for her role as an associate producer/writer for NBC); working as the director of media and public relations for a top-five U.S. Olympic sport at age 23; orchestrated a celebrity product endorsement for international soccer player Pele; developed a complex public relations and marketing platform for a large downtown development project; negotiated and securing multimillion-dollar partnership contracts; and enhanced economic impact for the city of Austin through tourism and hospitality. Currently, Bakre is part of The University of Texas at Austin's communications team and serves as the communications strategist in the president's office. Her hybrid role oversees crisis communications, issues management and media relations efforts.

Dan Casey (MPAff '76) is a partner in the Austin-based consulting firm Moak, Casey & Associates. He has 40 years of experience in education and public finance issues, and has held positions as research director for the state comptroller’s office, senior economist and budget examiner for the Legislative Budget Board, staff director for the Senate Finance Committee, director of the Legislative Education Board and associate executive director for the Texas Association of School Boards. In his consulting practice over the last 20 years, Casey has worked with many individual school districts on revenue issues, property value limitations and other economic development issues, as well as several school district organizations, including the Texas School Alliance and the Fast Growth School Coalition. He graduated with honors from the University of Michigan and holds a Master of Public Affairs degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin.

Greg Conte (MPAff/MBA '16) serves as a team leader with the Texas Comptroller’s Office, managing the implementation and maintenance of the state’s financial transparency initiatives. Previously he worked in various roles in both the public and private sectors, including at Austin’s Office of the City Auditor and at Deloitte as a public-sector consultant. Originally from Boston, he moved to Texas while on active duty in the U.S. Army and has since developed a strong admiration for the state’s charm, inclusiveness and pride. Conte loves returning to New England when he can, although he now considers the Lone Star State his home. He received his B.A from Boston University in 2006, earned an M.S. in intelligence and national security studies from UT El Paso in 2012, and graduated from UT in 2016, earning his MPAff and MBA concurrently.

 

Christine Gendron (MPAff '08) serves as the executive director of Texas Network of Youth Services (TNOYS), where she is a resource for policymakers, service providers and philanthropists looking to make investments to improve outcomes for Texas youth and families. Previously she worked as a senior research associate at the LBJ School’s Center for Health and Social Policy, where she managed project evaluations of innovative state-funded initiatives to promote child well-being. She received her master’s degree in public affairs from the LBJ School in 2008 and her bachelor’s degree in history from Texas A&M University in 2006. Gendron serves on the board of directors for National Network for Youth and is the vice president of a small family foundation. She grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Austin with her husband, Ben.

Ariel Griffin (MGPS '15) is a seventh-year Spanish teacher, currently teaching at Park Hill South High School (PHS). She is on a district-wide committee for Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL) and serves as a member of the school site team for AVID – a national program committed to closing the achievement gap in education. She also advises four student organizations for PHS and has taught in private, charter and public schools in the Dominican Republic, México, Texas and Missouri. During her internship summer with LBJ, Griffin served as a director of a summer school in the Dominican Republic through the DREAM Project — an experience that allowed her to see how policy affects program implementation. She holds a second master's degree in education and was awarded a Fulbright grant to study in Mexico. In her free time, she works as an independent contractor for organizations that need Spanish-language training and as a consultant for local faith-based nonprofits.

Casey H. Kelley (EMPL/MPAff ’18) is sirector, state government affairs for the western and southern U.S. and the Canadian Province of Alberta for Exelon Corporation, monitoring and supporting state policy initiatives before government entities in the region. He has more than 16 years of experience, including private-sector consulting, governmental affairs and public service. Previously, he served as director, state government and regulatory affairs for ORYXE Energy International and has served as chief of staff to a member of both the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate. He is active in several charities in Texas, which support the youth of our state. Kelley received a B.A. in human communications from Abilene Christian University in 2003, and graduated with an Executive Master in Public Leadership / Master of Public Affairs degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin.

Ben Leffler (MPAff '12) is a native Austinite and has proudly lived in the People’s Republic of Austin his entire life. He went to public schools and earned a B.A. in government from The University of Texas at Austin before attending the LBJ School to study local governance and alternative energy policy. After LBJ, he worked at the city of Austin in the auditor’s office and as a policy adviser to Council Member Chris Riley, where he focused on improving public parks and trails, economic development, transportation and helping Austin achieve a carbon-neutral energy future. In 2015, Leffler moved into civic design, and since then has worked to expand access to government services by making their websites more friendly, human and intuitive. Beyond work, Leffler connects with his community through various mentorship programs, his neighborhood association and by raising funds and awareness for candidates and causes. 

Josh Levine (MPAff '12) is president of the LBJ School Alumni Board and a proud member of the LBJ School Class of 2012. His main policy interests include higher education and public finance; he is currently focusing on issues of student mobility and university financial sustainability. A native of Dallas, he lives in New York, where he is the lead credit analyst for public higher education, Texas, and the Southeastern United States on Lord Abbett’s fixed-income team. Prior to that, he served as lead analyst at Moody’s Investors Service, where he wrote the methodology for analyzing community college bonds and worked with issuers of tax-exempt securities in the higher education, health care and local government sectors. Levine’s LBJ Policy Research Project was on government transparency and accountability, and he also collaborated on a book chapter dealing with burdens of proof in sports doping cases. He received his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University.

Stephen M. Niemeyer (MPAff '92), P.E., is deputy director in the environmental services department, Jefferson County Commission, Alabama. He was formerly the border affairs manager at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), where he worked for more than 25 years on U.S.-Mexico border environmental issues — particularly water quality, hydrology and water quantity, and emergency response. At the TCEQ, he managed a biennial $2.5–$2.75 million USEPA Performance Partnership Grant, served as an agency resource witness at the Texas Legislature and advised agency commissioners and the executive director. From 2005 to 2012, Niemeyer represented the state of Texas on the Good Neighbor Environmental Board, an advisory board to the president and Congress on U.S.-Mexico border environmental and infrastructure issues. He currently chairs the Border International Water Quality Standards Committee of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). In 2017 he was selected the Government Civil Engineer of the Year by the Texas Section of ASCE. Niemeyer holds a B.S. in chemistry from The University of Texas at San Antonio and a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. He is also registered as a professional engineer in Texas.

Lauren Oertel (MGPS '12) earned a Master of Global Policy Studies from the LBJ School, focusing on sustainable development in Latin America, and then worked on water quality improvement projects across the state for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Since then, she has discovered her calling with criminal justice advocacy work and is now the director of organizational strategies at Texas Inmate Families Association. Oertel also develops and supports criminal justice policy advocacy campaigns at the state and local levels, and works in collaboration with various other organizations, including the Austin Justice Coalition, Decarcerate ATX, Fair Chance Texas, Texas Advocates for Justice (under Grassroots Leadership), Truth Be Told, Inside Books Project and Undoing Racism in Austin. She believes in the power of our common humanity to create a transformed justice system. Oertel has served as chair of the Recognition Committee and is now the president-elect for the LBJ School Alumni Board.

Jennifer Poulakidas (MPAff '91) works for UCLA as associate vice chancellor for government and community relations. She is based on campus and promotes UCLA’s priorities to federal, state and local government leaders. She has spent most of her career working in Washington, DC in higher education advocacy, most recently at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), where, with the association’s 200+ major public research universities (including UT), she advocated public higher education’s positions to Congress and the executive branch on issues including science and research, student access and success, innovation and competitiveness and internationalization. Prior to APLU, Poulakidas served as legislative director for science for the University of California’s DC office. A San Francisco native, she began her career in Washington serving as a legislative aide to Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and she worked for Shipley & Associates on Texas state Senate campaigns in Houston and San Angelo. Her extracurricular pursuits include involvement with her alma maters: UCLA (undergrad) and the LBJ School, as well as the LBJ Washington Center Steering Committee.

Wade Tanner (MPAff '16) graduated from the LBJ School in 2016 with a Master of Public Affairs, and currently works as an analyst on the Natural Resources & Environment team for the U.S. Government Accountability Office. He previously held positions with several immigration law firms, assisting individuals, families and companies with their immigration needs. Tanner also serves as the president of the LBJ DC Alumni Chapter.

Noah Wright (MPAff '15) is a performance adviser at the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, where he designs and supports analytics development and executive business intelligence delivery. He previously worked as a performance analyst at the Public Safety Office, a criminal justice and homeland security grant administration unit located within the office of the governor of Texas. There, he supervised and implemented a multiyear redesign of the performance assessment process for their $350M annual grant portfolio. A native of Terre Haute, Indiana, he earned his Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School in 2015 and has lived in Austin since 2011. Wright also serves as the president of the LBJ Austin Area Alumni Chapter.

Ex-Officio Members

  • Angela Evans, Dean 
  • Chandler Stolp, Faculty Representative
  • Amanda Mendez, Alumni Relations Coordinator
  • Sephra Thomas, Graduate Public Affairs Council
  • Vacant, Dallas Alumni Chapter 
  • Isabel Nart (MPAff '80), Houston Alumni Chapter
  • Rebecca De La Garza (MPAff '13), San Antonio Alumni Chapter