The Graduating Class of 2021: Edda Pleitez (MGPS / Public Health) | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin
Tell us about your focus of study. What inspired you to pursue it?

I am a dual-degree student in Public Health and Global Policy Studies. I think the two programs are a natural extension of my undergraduate degrees, which were in international nutrition and French studies.

I started my academic career wanting to be a superstar international doctor because I wanted to help people be healthy, but as I started to pull the thread of what "being healthy" means, it led me from nutrition and our global food systems to analyzing systemic poverty and the role of international development. I got to learn about this really complicated network of fields like trade, agriculture, humanitarian aid, and health care that sometimes fail to accomplish their goals. Eventually the web got too big and I decided to focus on program monitoring and evaluation to help me continue learning after I leave grad school.

What drew you to the LBJ School?

It's the best program in the state and I knew I had to stay in state to afford higher education. But I went to UT for undergrad too, and I loved Austin. So I already lived here, and not having to move was a huge perk. I didn't even apply to other schools because this one just checked off all the boxes. I figured if I didn't get in the first time, I could always apply again, but I'm so glad they picked me!

What is your favorite memory from your time here earning your degree?

I don't have a specific memory per se, but I think very fondly of the pre-pandemic socials with my classmates. They are some of the most brilliant people I have ever had the luck to meet. Learning about them and being inspired by their passions at a happy hour or a party is I think what I miss most about going to Zoom University.


"I think I had an existential crisis every week for the first few weeks, but eventually I got used to the material because I started to enjoy having a paradigm shift. I learned about how much I don't know yet and how much there is to learn in this great big world and that I'll never run out of books to read." —Edda Pleitez (MGPS / Public Health)

What class or experience left the biggest impression on you?

Dr. Lentz's class on International Development left me questioning everything I thought I knew about the world. I think I had an existential crisis every week for the first few weeks, but eventually I got used to the material because I started to enjoy having a paradigm shift. I learned about how much I don't know yet and how much there is to learn in this great big world and that I'll never run out of books to read.

What is the most unexpected (non-pandemic) thing that happened to you during your time at LBJ?

Thanks to our world-class professional development team, I learned about my strengths and weaknesses as a professional. Specifically, the Professional Development certificate, which encouraged me to go to many workshops around campus, helped me be really introspective about how to be the best version of myself.

You experienced a massive shift to your school experience over the course of the last year. What did you discover about yourself during this time?

So much! It's not unique to me that the pandemic and stay-at-home orders forced us to slow down our lives. I had gotten so used to saying yes to every and any opportunity flung my way. I think that's not generally a terrible way to live your life, but I really let it get out of hand. When we went into lockdown, I was on two student leadership teams, taking 12 hours of coursework and working 20 hours a week. And still I wanted more. I think the most important lesson was on setting boundaries to manage my responsibilities, like saying no more often and pursuing more leisurely activities. I hope that sticks once we can all return to being in-person.

Tell us about your next steps.

I have accepted a (paid!) summer internship at Maximus, a private company that partners with government programs to deliver health and human services. I hope things work out with them, but I'm very happy to have a summer to continue the job hunt! I'm staying in Austin for now, though my ultimate goal is to make my way to DC or abroad in the global development field.

What is your advice to the incoming class?

Take classes everywhere! UT is your oyster. LBJ has excellent professors, there's no denying, but the same caliber renown exists in other departments on campus, each with unique perspectives. I took a course on Brazilian history, and though I read much more than I expected, I got to explore a different level of scholarship and analysis special to historians.