Policy Research Projects

Applying new knowledge to complex client issues.

A year-long capstone project with real-world impact, designed to provide students hands-on experience in policymaking. 

Master of Public Affairs and Master of Global Policy Studies students cap off their academic experience at LBJ with a year-long policy research project (PRP). This project pairs teams of students with a client to address a complex policy issue in a real-world context.

Each fall, students attend a PRP fair to explore the coming academic year’s projects. Reports are issued to clients at the end of the spring semester. 

Current Policy Research Projects

Congress and Social Media: Beyond Facebook and Twitter

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) looks to student researchers to collect data on and analyze Congress members’ adoption of social media channels like Instagram, Flickr and more. Results will aid CRS’ ability to answer congressional inquiries and provide the basis for a new report. Faculty lead: Sherri Greenberg

Evaluating the Impact of PreK3

The Austin Independent School District (AISD) is one of the first large districts in the nation to offer PreK to 3-year-olds. Student researchers will evaluate whether two years of high quality preK, rather than one year, better prepares students for Kindergarten. Faculty lead: Cynthia Osborne.

Innovation, Accountability and Higher Education Policy

The Higher Education Act is up for Congressional reauthorization, and the 85th Texas Legislative Session commences January 2017. This presents a unique opportunity to alert policymakers to issues that impede educational innovation and ask for experimental authority to conduct projects enabling institutions to develop, test and scale innovative approaches to teaching and learning. Faculty lead: Kathleen Brock

New Electric Utility Business Models and the Cost of Electricity

Student researchers will compare new business models, investigate current and future incentives and subsidies for electrical generation, and investigate the impact of different levels of distributed energy resources on business models. New utility business models reviewed will include New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision, California PUC proceedings, UK RIIO project and more. Faculty lead: Fred Beach

Sustainable Development

Working with the UT Office of Sustainability, students will focus on sustainability analysis and public policy through developing policy options to reduce water and energy use and improve waste management practices at off-site UT facilities. Faculty lead: David Eaton

Texas Strategic Transportation Initiatives

Texas is a major participant in both domestic and international trade, but distribution requires an efficient, reliable and safe freight transportation and logistics system. With client Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), students will identify, examine and evaluate specific transportation initiatives designed to facilitate and promote trade. Faculty lead: Leigh Boske

Crafting a 2-Generation Strategy for Central Texas

For client United Way for Greater Austin, this project will document 2-Gen antipoverty initiatives in the southwest and design a 2-Gen strategy and accompanying outcomes and impact measurement approach for 2-Gen efforts in Central Texas. Faculty lead: Christopher King

Evidence-Based Education Policy and the 2017 Session of the Texas Legislature

Students will summarize major debates in K-12 education policy and work with the education and finance committees of the Texas House and Senate, providing white papers, talking points and testimony to help increase the role of evidence in education policy. Faculty lead: Paul von Hippel

Ending Global Hunger: Opportunities for Small Scale Intervention

Students will identify opportunities to invest in small scale interventions in places where risks to food security and nutrition exist, and explore the use of citizen engagement tools to complement monitoring and evaluation frameworks for small grant holders and the Eleanor Crook Foundation. Faculty Lead: Catherine Weaver

Mexican Cartel Violence: Assessing the Mexican Government’s Response

Students will study Mexican government institutions, organized crime entities and government responses to the cartels, as well as the impact of cartel violence on journalism and cartel economics. Faculty Lead: Robert Chesney

Reinventing Diplomacy

Diplomatic services face challenges in global perspectives and sensibilities, managing the growing centralization of foreign policymaking, and the widening scope of diplomatic activity. Students will investigate the way various countries have tackled this challenge for the client—the president of the American Foreign Service Association. Faculty Lead: Robert Hutchings