LBJ School hosts 45 students at 2023 PPIA Public Service Weekend

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July 26, 2023

The LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. with support from the new Patman Center for Civic and Political Engagement, hosted the highly anticipated 2023 Public Policy and International Affairs Program (PPIA) Public Service Weekend July 20-23, a transformative four-day conference aimed at enriching undergraduate students and recent postgraduates from historically underrepresented backgrounds. 

The inspiring event sought to encourage participants representing 31 colleges and universities from around the nation--including 58 percent from outside of Texas--to develop skills and hands-on training in public speaking, oral testimony preparation, conflict resolution and coalition-building.

The conference also aimed to inspire students to consider graduate degree programs and pursue fulfilling careers in public service. 

Forty-five scholars were chosen from more than 400 applicants who came from schools spanning the nation including private HBCUs such as Howard University to large public institutions like UC Berkeley to dig into the theme of “Emerging Public Policy Issues in Texas and the American South.”


A diverse cohort of more than two dozen speakers, panelists and judges discussed and led workshops on the evolving landscape of civil rights, civic engagement, immigration and border issues, bipartisanship, education, and LGBTQIA+ policy issues across Texas and the Southern United States. Participants also took a guided tour of the LBJ Presidential Library.

LBJ School officials included Dean JR DeShazo; Assistant Professor Sergio Garcia-Rios; Professor Peniel Joseph; Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (JEDI) Director Estevan Daniel Delgado; and new faculty member Ambassador (Ret.) Larry E. André, Jr.

Leading policy professionals—including many LBJ School alumni—shared insight and personal journeys from academia, nonprofits, government, and community activism.

Travis County Judge Denise D. Hernández addressed how programs like the National Hispanic Institute allowed her opportunities to explore public service leadership. A daughter to migrant agricultural workers, Hernández said her personal experiences inform how she runs her courtroom, telling the crowd that she doesn’t sit at the judge’s bench but instead sees herself as someone who sits across from others at a shared table, albeit in a courtroom.


The event was scattered with alumni who shared stories of their journeys in public service such as County Commissioner Jeff Travillion (MPAff ’89) and U.S. Water Commissioner Maria Elena Giner (Ph.D. ’21), who also provided exceptional networking opportunities to connect with accomplished professionals, experienced mentors and like-minded peers.

Perhaps one of the most impactful aspects of the conference was the exposure to graduate programs. Representatives from the LBJ School shared information about degree programs and resources available to prospective students. This exposure allowed attendees to envision a future where they could actively contribute to public service and be catalysts for positive advancement utilizing newfound knowledge, inspiration and connections.

The primary mission of the Public Policy and International Affairs Program (PPIA), a nonprofit organization with over 40 years of dedicated service, is to support and promote efforts that enhance outreach, access, and belonging in the field of public service. With a solid commitment to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, PPIA has been instrumental in breaking down barriers and empowering aspiring public servants from diverse backgrounds.PPIA Public Service Weekend, 7.22.23