Current Ph.D. Students | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

Current Ph.D. Students

Ph.D. Students

Our Ph.D. students in public policy engage closely with our LBJ School faculty members as well as research centers within LBJ and the university at large. 


Felipe Antequera

Ph.D. student Felipe Antequera

Status: Ph.D. student
Education: Bachelor in engineering and MSc engineering, both from Universidad Catolica de Chile
Interests: Affordable housing; public infrastructure
Bio: Felipe Antequera is a Ph.D. student and a CONNECT program fellow at the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. His research interests include public policies related to public infrastructure development, and housing policies in his home country of Chile and Latin America — including, currently, low-income renting and sharing in Latin America and affordable housing. Antequera is a civil engineer with experience in managing infrastructure projects, and was in charge of developing important infrastructure projects at the Catholic University in Chile. His future goals are combining his experience in managing infrastructure projects with training in public policy to work in developing public infrastructure and affordable housing policies in Chile. Antequera holds a B.A. and a M.Sc. degree in civil engineering, both from the Catholic University in Chile. He is a Fulbright fellow, and his research is supported by Conicyt (through the BIO – Beca Igualdad de Oportunidades Program). 

Diana Bolsinger

Ph.D. candidate Diana Bolsinger

Status: Doctoral candidate
Education: B.A., International Studies, Reed College; M.A., International Relations, George Washington University; M.Ed., Elementary Education, Marymount University; M.A., Government, New Mexico State University
Interests: Intelligence and national security; counterterrorism, executive-legislative collaboration and conflict on national security strategy; U.S.-Pakistani relations
Bio: Diana Bolsinger is a doctoral candidate currently serving as the graduate director of the Intelligence and National Security Studies Master of Science program at The University of Texas at El Paso. In 2020, her manuscript titled "'Though Not at Any Price': LBJ, Pakistan, and Bargaining in an Asymmetric Intelligence Liaison Relationship, was selected as the winner of the Bobby Inman Award for student scholarship in intelligence. Her current research examines the interface between domestic politics, intelligence operations and U.S. foreign policy. Her dissertation examines how Washington's clandestine security relationships in South Asia impact U.S. regional policy. Bolsinger has designed and taught undergraduate and graduate courses in terrorism, intelligence collection and analysis; professional skills in intelligence and national security; and intelligence and information. Before coming to the LBJ school, she served in a variety of analytical and policy support positions in the U.S. Intelligence and foreign policy communities, including assignments in Islamabad, Pakistan; Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina; Seoul, Korea; and Washington, DC. 

Regina M. Buono

Ph.D. student Regina M. Buono

Status: Ph.D. candidate
Education: B.A., Political Science and International Relations, University of Arkansas; B.A., Spanish, University of Arkansas; J.D., The University of Texas School of Law; M.Sc., Water Science and Governance, King's College London
Interests: Water governance; urban resilience; water security; nature-based solutions, law and adaptive governance
Personal website:
Curriculum vitae: Regina M. Buono
Bio: Regina Buono is a Ph.D. candidate at the LBJ School and a nonresident scholar at the Center for Energy Studies (CES) at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy. Her dissertation research examines the role of governance regimes in the implementation of nature-based solutions in urban settings, with a particular focus on the role of law. Prior to entering the Ph.D. program, she served as the Baker Botts Fellow in Energy and Environmental Regulatory Affairs at CES and practiced legislative and environmental law in Austin. From 2017 to 2020, Buono served as an advisor to NAIAD, a project funded by the EU to capitalize on the benefits of natural ecosystems for water-related risk mitigation by developing and testing concepts, tools and applications on demonstration sites across Europe. She also consults on water governance issues with International H2O Solutions, LLC.  

Selena Caldera

Ph.D. candidate Selena Caldera

Status: Ph.D. candidate
Education: B.A. Government, The University of Texas at Austin; MPP, Georgetown University
Interests: Health care; aging; social policy
Personal website: selenacaldera
Bio: Selena Caldera is a Ph.D. candidate with a focus on health care and aging at the LBJ School. Her previous experience includes over 10 years of research experience in public policy areas such as health care, education, immigration and retirement income policy. She has extensive work experience in quantitative analysis, policy and legislative analysis, survey development and collection, and cost analysis. Caldera currently works at the Child and Family Research Partnership on a variety of child welfare evaluations. Previously she was the senior strategy analyst for Central Health, Travis County's health care district, where she analyzed the health care services provided by Central Health and the unmet health care needs in the county. Her past work includes economic research at AARP's Public Policy Institute and legislative and policy research at the Congressional Budget Office.  

Ana Canedo

Ph.D. candidate Ana Canedo

Status: Ph.D. candidate
Education: B.A. Economics, B.A. Political Science, ITAM, Mexico; M.P.A., Cornell University
Interests: Social policy; migration; human capital; labor economics
Personal website:
Bio: Ana Canedo is a doctoral candidate at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and a Population Research Center (PRC) graduate student trainee at UT Austin. Her main research interests lie in the fields of labor economics, human capital development, migration and social policy. Before attending the LBJ School, Canedo worked as a research coordinator for the Human Capital Division of the Center of Research for Development AC (CIDAC), an independent, not-for-profit think tank devoted to policy-relevant research in Mexico. She holds an M.P.A. from Cornell University, a B.A. in economics and a B.A. in political science from ITAM, Mexico. 

Francisco A. Castellanos-Sosa

Ph.D. student Francisco A. Castellanos-Sosa

Status: Ph.D. student
Education: B.A., Economics, UANL; M.A., Economy and Public Policy, ITESM; M.Sc., Economics, University of Texas at Austin
Interests: Labor economics; public policy; international development
Personal website:
Curriculum vitae: Francisco Castellanos-Sosa
Bio: Francisco Castellanos-Sosa is a doctoral student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, a graduate student trainee at the Population Research Center (PRC), and a graduate research assistant at the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. He is a scholar interested in labor economics, public policy and international development with a focus on income inequality and industrial policies. Prior to entering LBJ, Castellanos-Sosa did three years of doctoral coursework in the Department of Economics at UT Austin and earned an MSc in economics. He recently served as a lecturer at the Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University. In Mexico, he worked on the evaluation of public and budget programs, construction of economic development plans, design of competitiveness public agendas, creation of indexes and identification of strategic economic sectors, and taught several undergraduate and graduate courses at UVM. Castellanos-Sosa also holds a B.A. in economics from the UANL and an M.A. in economy and public policy from ITESM. 

Max Ferguson

Ph.D. student Max Ferguson

Status: Ph.D. student
Education: B.S., sociology, United States Military Academy at West Point; M.A., Defense and Strategic Studies, United States Naval War College
Interests: Diplomacy; national security policy; civil-military relations
Personal website:
Bio: Max Ferguson is attending LBJ as a Goodpaster Scholar through the U.S. Army, where he serves as a Major with 15 years active duty experience as an infantry officer. His two previous assignments were at the Department of State as a White House fellow working in the Secretary's Iran Action Group on Iran policy and as a special assistant to the chief of staff of the U.S. Army. He has previously deployed five times to Iraq, Afghanistan and West Africa. He lives in Round Rock, Texas with his wife and three children. He enjoys fishing, paddling, running and woodworking. 

Maria-Elena Giner, P.E.

Ph.D. candidate Maria-Elena Giner

Status: Ph.D. candidate
Education: B.S., Civil Engineering, Loyola Marymount University; MBA, University of Texas at El Paso
Interests: Environmental policy; natural resource management; municipal infrastructure; renewable energy; project development, implementation and results measurement
Curriculum vitae
Personal website:
Bio: Maria Elena Giner's research interests are on the intersection between public policy and infrastructure, specifically on measuring results. Prior to pursuing her Ph.D. in 2017, she was appointed by the U.S. and Mexican governments in 2010 as the general manager for the Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC). Much of her work at BECC focused on modernizing the institution by expanding its programs and updating its organizational tools in accordance with the dynamic needs of the U.S.-Mexico border region residents for municipal infrastructure while balancing the interests of the U.S. and Mexico’s federal administrations. Prior to her appointment, Giner served in various senior positions in the municipal utility industry and in private consulting for water and wastewater infrastructure for all 10 U.S. and Mexican border states. She is a registered professional engineer in the state of Texas. 

Ashlyn W. Hand

Ph.D. candidate Ashlyn Hand

Status: Ph.D. candidate
Education: Master of Public Affairs, LBJ School of Public Affairs, The University of Texas at Austin
Interests: U.S. foreign policy; religion; human rights; democracy
Bio: Ashlyn Hand is a doctoral candidate in public policy and a graduate fellow at the Clements Center for National Security. In addition, she is a predoctoral fellow at the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Her research focuses on the intersection of U.S. foreign policy and religion and considers the role of human rights promotion in American grand strategy. By analyzing the first two decades of the International Religious Freedom Act, Hand's dissertation examines the durability of foreign policy approaches to promoting freedom of conscience abroad. Her work has been published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution and Foreign Policy. 

Mark Clayton Hand

Ph.D. candidate Mark Hand

Status: Ph.D. candidate (expected May 2021)
Education: B.A., Political Economy and Religious Studies, Vanderbilt University; MBA, Entrepreneurship, University of Oxford, New College
Interests: Teams and organizations; congressional campaigns; theories of public policy; political entrepreneurship; network analysis; rural development and entrepreneurship
Personal website:
Curriculum vitae: Mark Clayton Hand
Bio: Mark Clayton Hand researches effective team-building in political campaigns and entrepreneurship in the rural U.S. He has taught at Oxford University, where he redesigned the core MBA entrepreneurship course; and at The University of Texas at Austin's RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service, where he designed and taught a course on social entrepreneurship. His work is supported by the IC2 Institute at UT-Austin and the Dirksen Congressional Center. He is also a senior consultant at MPA Advisors, which helps early stage companies and investment funds more effectively build and manage high-caliber teams. Prior to his academic career, Hand made, managed and supported investments in over 40 ventures through UnLtd USA (which became Techstars Impact), Gray Ghost Ventures, the Oxford Seed Fund, and the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship. He has taught entrepreneurship at Oxford's Saïd Business School and social entrepreneurship at the University of Texas. He spent his early career in community development, including founding Manna Project International's site in Ecuador. 

Dana M. Johnson

Ph.D. student Dana M. Johnson

Status: Ph.D. student
Education: B.A., Sociology and Social Work, University of Minnesota; MPAff, LBJ School of Public Affairs, The University of Texas at Austin
Interests: Sexual and reproductive health; economic inequality; social policy; population health
Personal website: @danamartha_
Bio: Dana Johnson is a third year Ph.D. student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and a researcher for Project SANA, the Self-Managed Abortion Needs Assessment Project. Her primary research interests are sexual and reproductive health, economic inequality and social policy. Johnson's current work examines how individual experiences of financial hardship shape access to reproductive health care in the United States. Prior to graduate school, she received a B.A. in sociology and social work from the University of Minnesota and worked as a grassroots organizer for a reproductive rights advocacy organization. In her free time, you will likely find her at Barton Springs or Deep Eddy Pool. 

Jeremy Kasper

Status: Ph.D. candidate
Education: B.S., Political Science, United States Military Academy at West Point; M.A., College of Naval Command and Staff
Interests: Organizational adaptation; bureaucracy theory; post-combat operations; strategy
Bio: Jeremy Kasper is a United States Army lieutenant colonel and a Ph.D. candidate at the LBJ School. He has deployed overseas multiple times over his 19-year career, and served in combat arms and policy support capacities. Kasper's interests include strategy and national security policy, and his current research focus is on institutional adaption and the role of the U.S. Army, U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development in planning and conducting post-combat operations. He is a prior graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point (B.S. in political science), and the College of Naval Command and Staff (M.A. in national security and strategic studies). 

Jasleen Kaur

Ph.D. student Jasleen Kaur

Status: Ph.D. student
Education: Bachelor's, Economics (Hons); Master's, Applied Economics
Interests: Monitoring and evaluation; implementation science; global development; gender; social policy
Bio: Jasleen Kaur is a third-year Ph.D. student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. She is a development economist and her research aims to improve the social, economic and political status of women. She is specifically interested in the "implementation science" of policies and programs meant to empower women. Kaur has previously worked with J-PAL South Asia, where she was involved with hands-on monitoring and evaluation of a gender livelihood and training program on women's social and political outcomes. She also worked as a senior researcher at Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University in India, where she worked on evaluating a conditional cash transfer program for first-time pregnant women. 

Eun Young Kim

Ph.D. candidate Eun Young Kim

Status: Ph.D. candidate
Education: B.A. in Economics, B.A. in Political Science, Seoul National University; M.P.P., Seoul National University; M.S. in Statistics, University of Texas at Austin
Interests: Global development; political economy of foreign aid; national statistical systems and statistical capacity; program evaluation methods
Bio: Eun Young Kim is from Seoul, South Korea. Her research interests lie at the intersection of global development, statistical systems, and government statistics. Before coming to the LBJ School, she worked as a researcher at the Center for International Development Evaluation at Seoul National University, where she developed her interest in evaluation methods and global development issues while participating in various research projects. Kim holds a MPP as well as bachelor's degrees in economics and in political science (international relations), from Seoul National University. 

Marion Kipiani

Ph.D. student Marion Kipiani

Status: Ph.D. student
Education: Magistra(FH), University of Applied Sciences Kufstein (Austria); Master of Peace Studies (MAPS), University of Hagen (Germany); Master in International Affairs (MIA) Texas A&M University
Interests: Regionalism and regional security cooperation; European foreign policy and EU-NATO cooperation; security in eastern Europe and the post-Soviet space
Bio: Marion Kipiani's research interests focus on geostrategic competition in the wider Black Sea region as well as regional and security policy in the post-Soviet space. Before returning to graduate school, Kipiani worked as a coordinator and consultant for conflict transformation and post-conflict recovery projects in the South Caucasus and the Middle East. 

Stephanie Leutert

Ph.D. student Stephanie Leutert

Status: Ph.D. student
Education: B.A. International Affairs and Spanish Literature, Skidmore College; M.A. Global Affairs, Yale University
Interests: Immigration policy; border policy
Personal website:
Bio: Stephanie Leutert is a doctoral student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and Director of the Central America and Mexico Policy Initiative at the Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law. Her research interests focus on U.S. immigration and border policy, Mexican migration policy and the effects at the U.S.-Mexico border. Previously, Leutert has also worked as a research associate in the Latin America Studies Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. 

Sophie M. Morse

Ph.D. candidate Sophie M. Morse

Status: Ph.D. candidate
Education: B.A., International Studies, Middlebury College; M.P.P., Healthy Policy, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Interests: Public health policy; women's health; policy implementation; gender-based violence prevention and response; health policy and systems research; Latin America
Personal website:
Bio: Sophie Morse is a doctoral candidate at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and a Population Research Center (PRC) graduate student trainee at The University of Texas at Austin. Her adviser is Dr. Victoria Rodríguez. Her main research interests are at the intersection of health policy and systems and women's health in the U.S. and Latin America. Her dissertation focuses on the health system role in responding to intimate partner violence in Mexico. Morse's work has been published in Health Care for Women International, Violence Against Women, the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, the Journal of Urban Health and PLoS One. Before attending the LBJ School, she worked at a nonprofit in the Dominican Republic, served as a community health volunteer in the Peace Corps in Uganda, and studied the health care provider response to sexual violence in Bogotá, Colombia on a Fulbright Scholarship. 

Joycelyn Ovalle

Ph.D. student Joycelyn Ovalle

Status: Ph.D. student
Education: B.A., Political Science, Sam Houston State University; Master of Public Administration (MPA), The Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University
Interests: Civil society; public policy; power dynamics
Bio: Joycelyn Ovalle is a doctoral student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Her research interests focus on the intersection between public policy and civil society with a strong orientation toward better understanding philanthropy's increasing role in policymaking. Prior to pursuing doctoral studies, Ovalle managed projects and conducted research at the Urban Institute's Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy. Before joining Urban, Ovalle also held positions as a graduate research assistant at Texas A&M University and in the public sector at the U.S. Department of Energy. She holds a B.A. in political science from Sam Houston State University and an MPA from Texas A&M University. 

Sandeep Paul

Status: Ph.D. student
Education: B.A. (Hons), Economics, Hans Raj College, University of Delhi; M.A., Development Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
Interests: Urban development; environment and climate change policy; global governance
Bio: Sandeep Paul is a is a doctoral student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. His broader research interests include urban development, environment and climate change policy and development finance. Before joining the LBJ School, he worked as research associate at Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) an independent, not-for-profit think tank in New Delhi, India. Paul holds a master's degree in development studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai and a B.A. (Hons.) in economics from Hans Raj College, Delhi University. 

Alfonso Rojas-Alvarez

Ph.D. candidate Alfonso Rojas-Alvarez

Status: Ph.D. candidate
Education: B.A., political science, Universidad de Costa Rica; M.S., statistics and data science, The University of Texas at Austin (concluded 2019); M.P.P., applied econometrics, University of California, Berkeley; Ph.D., public policy, The University of Texas at Austin (expected 2021)
Interests: Housing, public health, urban and environmental economics, data science, quantitative methods and data-driven policy analysis
Bio: Alfonso Rojas-Alvarez is currently a doctoral candidate (ABD) and researcher in public policy and statistics at The University of Texas at Austin, where he also completed a master's in statistics and data science. Previously, he earned a Master of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, with a concentration in applied econometrics, and has studies in management and leadership at both INCAE and Harvard University. Since 2013, he has worked in housing and urban policy, public health, research design and data science at several research centers at UC Berkeley, Harvard University and UT Austin. Before moving to the United States, Rojas-Alvarez was an adviser to the Minister of the Presidency of Costa Rica, and adviser to the Minister of Tourism. Since 2007, he has been a regular op-ed columnist at Costa Rica's premier newspaper, La Nación, where he writes about evidence-based policies and current events. Finally, he has also worked as an economics and data science consultant in Costa Rica, the U.S. and Mexico, as well as a graduate instructor in microeconomics, international economics and political geography. 

Vivek S. Shastry

Ph.D. student Vivek S. Subramanya

Status: Ph.D. student
Education: M.S., Community and Regional Planning and M.S., Sustainable Design, University of Texas at Austin, USA; B.Tech Civil Engineering, National Institute of Technology Karnataka, India
Interests: Poverty eradication; decentralization; sustainable energy; data science and machine learning
Bio: Vivek Shastry is passionate about facilitating inclusive rural development through sustainable energy. He is currently a doctoral student studying public policy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and a graduate research assistant with the Energy Systems Transformation Research Group (a.k.a. Rai Group). His doctoral work explores the intersection of energy access, primary health care and rural livelihoods. Prior to his doctoral work, he traveled extensively in rural India and worked at both policy level and implementation of decentralized clean energy projects. His inter-disciplinary academic training spans across engineering, energy studies, design, planning and policy. Shastry is a J.N. Tata Fellow, Byron Fellow and a recipient of the J.J. "Jake" Pickle Fellowship at The University of Texas at Austin. He enjoys finding insights from data as much as working with stakeholders to implement solutions on the ground, and aspires to effectively combine research, teaching and implementation to bring about meaningful change in the lives of the underserved. 

Antonia Vazquez

Ph.D. candidate Antonia Vazquez

Status: Ph.D. student
Education: B.A. in Business Administration, UNICEN, Argentina; M.A. in Economics, Universidad de San Andres, Argentina
Interests: Development economics; public economics; social policy evaluation
Bio: Antonia Vazquez's research interests focus on development economics, public economics and social policy evaluation in Latin American countries. Before coming to the LBJ School, she was a Fox International Fellow at Yale University. There she studied the effects of military conscription on personality and beliefs in Argentina, as well as the effects of public information disclosure on the performance of public infrastructure projects in Costa Rica. Vazquez holds an M.A. in economics from Universidad de San Andres (Argentina) and a B.A in business administration from UNICEN (Argentina). 

Kayee (Jiayi) Zhou

Status: Ph.D. student
Education: B.A., Political Science, Sun Yat-sen University; MPA, M.A. in Political Science, Texas Tech University
Interests: Ethnic politics (particularly Asian American political attitudes and behavior); immigration policy; politics and public policy in China
Bio: Kayee Zhou, from Guangdong, China, is a doctoral student and a research assistant of the Child and Family Research Partnership (CFRP) at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Her current research interests focus on uncovering Asian Americans' political attitudes and behavior by exploring the dynamics of their multiple identities. She is also using R to perform machine learning for text analysis on policy documents to identify the shift of political focus. During her undergraduate study in China, she was actively engaged in starting up two nongovernmental organizations, one centering on local culture and historic preservation and the other one on bridging social work scholars with social work organizations. She holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Sun Yat-sen University, China, a M.A. in public administration and a M.A. in political science from Texas Tech University.