Policy Research Projects | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

Policy Research Projects

Applying new knowledge to complex client issues.

A 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. 

Policy Research Projects

Housing + Economic & Social Mobility

For clients HousingWorks and the Housing Authority of the City of Austin, students will examine the connection between housing and mobility and the access to predictors of economic and social mobility such as education, health care, open space and social opportunities. Faculty lead: Sherri Greenberg

Sustainability of Engineered Rivers in Arid Lands: The Paso del Norte

Students will study options for sustainable water management in the Rio Grande/Bravo segment between Elephant Butte Reservoir and Fort Quitman, a watershed shared by two U.S. states and a Mexican state. Findings and policy recommendations on dealing with increased water scarcity will by published by Cambridge University Press in their UNESCO Hydrology Series. Faculty leads: Jurgen Schmandt and Chandler Stolp

Evaluating the Impact of PreK3

For client Austin Independent School District, students will conduct the first evaluation in the nation to determine whether children who experience two years of public preK (ages 3-4) are better prepared for Kindergarten. Faculty lead: Cynthia Osborne

Texas Low-Income Profiles Project

Students will contribute to a better understanding of low- to middle-income Texans with a goal of enabling strategic decision-making among stakeholders in Texas’ electricity market—utilities, regulators, policymakers, nonprofits and service providers. Client: Texas Energy Poverty Research Institute. Faculty lead: Heath Prince.

Young Hip Austin is Getting Old: A New Experiment in Dealing with the Challenge

Students will develop a business plan to address care needs in a diverse Austin neighborhood with a rapidly aging low-income population. Clients: Central Health and St. David’s Foundation. Faculty lead: Jacqueline Angel

Beyond the Border: Policy Responses for Central American Migration

For client Sin Fronteras, students will conduct research into better responses to issues related to Central American migration, covering security concerns, overlap of migrant smuggling groups with organized criminal networks, current Mexican policy efforts and U.S. border and immigration policies. Faculty lead: Stephanie Leutert

Commercialization of Advanced Technologies in Poor Rural Areas in Japan and Nepal

This class will provide study and action opportunities for students in the challenge of commercialization of high-tech industries in poor rural areas that seek to create new businesses, employment and wealth. Faculty lead: David Eaton

Interplay of Social, Economic, Technological and Policy Drives in the Solar Industry

Students will study the underlying social, economic, technological and policy processes that have shaped the solar industry. Client: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Other partners: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Yale University. Faculty lead: Varun Rai

Spies and Special Operations: Unity of Effort in the ‘Gray Zone’ Between War and Peace

With a final report to the Department of Defense, students will examine the progressive integration of capabilities of U.S. Special Operations forces and the U.S. intelligence community since 9/11. Faculty lead: Paul Pope

Plutonium for Energy? Environmental, Economic and Security Issues

Students will produce cross-national case studies of past efforts to recycle plutonium as fuel in nuclear power reactors, focusing on economic, environmental and security concerns. Faculty lead: Alan Kuperman

Pathways to Energizing the Texas Permian Basin

Students recommend concrete steps to continue to grow the Permian Basin as a hub and connector for the region's engagement, enrichment, and innovation. Faculty lead: Steven Pedigo

Stephen F. Austin University: An Anchor Institution in Deep East Texas

Stephen F. Austin partnered with the LBJ School of Public Affairs to build a plan that incorporates the strengths of the Deep East Texas region and the potential for SFA to move the economy toward resilience.

Students examine U.S. response to foreign election interference

A Policy Research Project (PRP) led by Professor Stephen B. Slick is assessing efforts by Russia and other foreign states to influence and damage the integrity of U.S. elections, and examining federal response to safeguard future elections. Its recommendations will go to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Learn about the students' research
Electoral College Map. Credit: Clay Banks, Unsplash

LBJ explores how cities used UN conference to fight climate change through food policy

A Policy Research Project (PRP) led by Research Professor Raj Patel investigates how some cities' innovation and commitment are leading the way on food systems and climate change — and putting pressure on national governments.

Read more about the project
Fruit and vegetable stall at a farmers market. Credit: Annie Spratt, Unsplash

LBJ students tackle Mexico Security challenges

Students take a comprehensive look at Mexican security policy to think critically about ways they could be improved in the future. From readings to guest lecturers and a trip to Mexico City, students immersed themselves in numerous aspects of this complicated international issue.

Read more about their work
Master of Global Policy Studies students outside the Comision Nacional de Seguridad

Supporting collaboration to address local poverty

A 2016-17 Policy Research Project led by the LBJ School’s Chris King focused on 2-Gen strategies in Central Texas to streamline and coordinate the services provided to families to help them improve their economic situation.

Read more about what students learned
Graphic showing 211 calls by Austin area code