Hometown: Happy Valley, Oregon
Policy Focus: Education, LGBTQIA+ youth policies, youth justice
Current Title and Employer: Policy Consultant, Deans For Impact
What inspired you to pursue a degree in public policy/attend the LBJ School?
I was an eighth-grade science and sex education teacher for 12 years, both in Mississippi and Texas. I found myself consistently frustrated by policies that were out of touch with the realities of classroom teaching and clearly not informed by individuals with teaching experience.
As a classroom teacher, I engaged in advocacy on education policy issues that primarily impact LGBTQIA+ students. This included testifying before committees of the Texas House and Senate, Texas State Board of Education, and Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, as well as writing op-eds. I soon realized that I could make a larger impact by transitioning into a career in policy. I chose the LBJ School because of its well-regarded reputation, the more affordable cost relative to other programs, and my ability to work as a teacher while completing my coursework.
Tell us about your experience at the LBJ School.
I've had incredible opportunities throughout my time at the LBJ School. For example, through taking courses with Michele Deitch and Alycia Welch, I've been able to meet with advocates in the criminal justice space, speak with incarcerated individuals to hear their stories, and engage in jail learning visits.
I was also appointed as the LBJ representative to the UT Senate of College Councils, where we enacted numerous important policies that advance academic and DEI initiatives to improve the student experience on campus. I was named the representative of the year by the executive board. But most importantly, I've been so fortunate to be a part of this incredible student body. The students at LBJ are fierce advocates, dedicated public servants, and incredibly bright young people. Being able to count them as my colleagues--and to know that these are future leaders in public policy--I'm left feeling grateful for the student body in particular.
Which LBJ School faculty member(s) influenced you the most and why?
Michele Deitch made a profound impact on my future trajectory. Over the course of my career as an educator, I've had former students who became incarcerated as children. Through taking her “Youth Justice & Policy Development” course as well as an advanced research course investigating deaths in custody, I am committed to making youth justice central to my education policy work.
I am also particularly grateful for my time with Erin Lentz and Mary Evans. Having taken their courses in empirical methods and economics, I feel like a much more capable quantitative and qualitative researcher. They also provided important guidance and support outside of class that helped to make me feel at home at LBJ.
Tell us about your professional journey after you left the LBJ School.
For the past year, I've been working as a policy consultant at Deans for Impact, a national nonprofit working to ensure every child is taught by a well-prepared teacher. My work entails advising DFI's federal and state-level policy efforts to increase access and affordability to high-quality, practice-based educator-preparation programs. As part of this work, I support the management and operations of the Aspiring Teachers as Tutors Network (ATTN), a coalition of 23 educator preparation programs and nonprofits across 13 states dedicated to increasing the number of aspiring teachers serving as high-impact tutors in K-12 schools and strengthen the instructional skills of future teachers.
Through this work, I've had the opportunity to conduct research site visits to universities across the country and interview leaders in higher education working to bring in more instructionally-focused early field experiences for teacher candidates. My colleagues and I have co-authored a tutoring policy framework that proposes important policy recommendations to improve the scalability and sustainability of mobilizing aspiring teachers as tutors. These are recommendations that we're now activating at the state and federal levels. In August, I will be starting a new opportunity where I will research education policy in Norway as a Fulbright grantee.
What is one skill you learned at the LBJ School that you still use in your professional career today?
I've learned so much about policy research--particularly the quantitative and qualitative methodology used in academic research--and how to conduct in-depth analyses of policies across states.
What advice would you give current students as they prepare to graduate and go out into the policy arena?
It's okay to change your path mid-journey. I thought I would always be a teacher and the decision to step out of the classroom was a difficult one. However, I am energized by this new opportunity to improve public education and I aspire to be a teacher again in the future.
What was your most treasured memory from your time at the LBJ School?
When Nancy Pelosi spoke at the LBJ Presidential Library, I had the opportunity to ask her a question about how we can stop the proliferation of harmful policies targeting transgender students. Her response to my question ended up in the Houston Chronicle, Austin American-Statesman and other publications. I don't know that I would ever have had the chance to ask this question of a high-ranking public official in any other setting.
Please list any recent accomplishments or awards you've recently received.
- 2018 Harriett Ball Excellence in Teaching Award
- 2019 CBS Austin Teacher of the Year finalist
- 2020 HEB Excellence in Education statewide semifinalist
- 2023-24 Representative of the Year, UT Senate of College Councils
- 2024-25 Fulbright grantee to Norway
What are your future plans or aspirations?
In August, I will start a new opportunity where I will research education policy in Norway as a Fulbright grantee. My research will include conducting a case study analysis investigating the impact of Norwegian reforms to educator-preparation programs on teacher candidate attrition, retention, and preparation. The findings of this case study will be used to inform recommendations for education policy officials addressing teacher vacancies in Texas.
I have been invited to join the SISCO (Studies of Instruction across Subjects and Competences) research group in the Department of Teacher Education and School Research at the University of Oslo, where I will work under the supervision of Dr. Inga Staal Jenset, associate professor of education. The design of this research is informed by my experience as a classroom teacher and policy consultant, as well as my coursework at the LBJ School. As part of this research, I will conduct observations in P-12 classrooms as well as university courses for pre-service teachers. I will facilitate qualitative interviews of teacher candidates, professors of education, recent program graduates now teaching, and Norwegian Ministry of Education officials who led the reform efforts.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I am so grateful to Shannon Chapman for her tireless work to make the LBJ School more inclusive, hosting a happy hour for the students she advises, and ensuring we have all the information we need to navigate graduate school.