Members of the LBJ School's newest class share what motivates them and what they hope for their time here.
The 2020–21 academic year is one like no other. Critical public policy is being made and changed at a breakneck pace, and our society is straining under the weight of challenges that have compounded over generations.
The health of American democracy relies on public service and the dedicated people who work for the collective good. There has never been a greater need for trained experts who can work across partisan lines and address complicated problems with innovative solutions and compassion.
To the next generation of courageous public servants: Welcome to the arena. We're glad you are here.
- Sergio Plaza III, MPAff / Public Health
- Baongan Chuor, MGPS—DC
- Chelsi Chang, MPAff
- Kaitlyn Anderson, MPAff
Sergio Plaza III, Master of Public Affairs dual degree with Public Health
Policy area: Children and family policy
Plaza is a first-year graduate student in Public Affairs and Public Health. He earned a B.A. in sociology and government from The University of Texas at Austin, and has worked in education in San Antonio for the past six years. His work experience shaped his belief that it's vital that policies and systems are people-centered, racially equitable, and prioritize the needs of children, families and communities.
I chose the LBJ School because the emphasis the school places on quantitative analysis will challenge my growth in policy development. I wanted to learn how to think in a different way than I am used to, as well as to be able to work with those who think and work differently.
Reflect on what you want to get out of graduate studies. Think about how you want to spend the rest of your career and what type of program will get you closer to that vision. I have loved the Summer Stretch programming! To get a chance every day to interact with my peers and learn from LBJ faculty on their policy specialties gave me an opportunity to learn what to expect for my graduate experiences. Navigating a dual degree program from two different institutions has been worrisome, but my graduate coordinator has met with me to go over expectations and to think through my plans for the next year. So far, interacting with LBJ this summer has been both insightful and helpful!
"For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to go into public service and help to create systems that better invest in children, families and communities." —Sergio Plaza III
During my time at LBJ, I hope to better understand how to turn an idea into actual policy. Thinking through an issue from brainstorming through implementation, I want to become a better advocate on behalf of children and families.
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to go into public service and help to create systems that better invest in children, families and communities. After I finish at LBJ, I hope to start that career in either a state legislature or school district.
Getting to learn from experienced policymakers and from my peers! So far I have gotten to see that there are so many diverse policy interests and backgrounds that I will learn from during my time here.
Baongan Chuor, Master of Global Policy Studies—DC Concentration
Policy area: Migration
Chuor is an MGPS-DC student whose primary policy interests are migration and education. Before coming to LBJ, she served as a Fulbright English teaching assistant in Madrid, as well as a policy analyst for Texas State Rep. Gene Wu (MPAff '04). She graduated from the University of Houston-Main Campus, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science and liberal studies with minors in Spanish and nonprofit leadership.
I chose the LBJ School because the MGPS-DC Concentration program allows me to intersect my interests in Texas politics and foreign policymaking at the federal level.
Don't be afraid to reach out to current master students or graduates for advice on writing an application. It is a complicated process, but people are typically willing to help.
I was surprised how flexible the LBJ School has been in terms of the application process and teaching modalities given all the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. The Summer Stretch program was a creative way for me to get to know my prospective professors and everyone who will be guiding me through graduate school. I have already begun communicating with professors about my research interests and using the services offered by LBJ Career Management Office.
"I chose the LBJ School because the MGPS-DC Concentration program allows me to intersect my interests in Texas politics and foreign policymaking at the federal level." —Baongan Chuor
Through The LBJ School, I hope to enhance my research abilities and policy analysis skills. Upon graduating from the MGPS-DC program, I hope to work with a specialized agency of the United Nations to help shape safe and humane migration policies.
I am most excited about engaging in interdisciplinary research projects on campus that will prepare me for an immersive DC Policy Apprenticeship at a migration studies think tank.
Chelsi Chang, Master of Public Affairs
Policy area: Education reform/policy
Chang graduated summa cum laude from Florida State University and took some years off to get experience in the workforce. She currently works for an education consultancy, helping primarily low-income, students of color navigate the college admissions process.
I cannot say enough about the community at LBJ. The school does a great job of encouraging collaboration and teamwork in every way. Even though this year is starting very differently than years past, I still feel like I have a connection with my fellow LBJers. There is a true sense of community and service that I find emblematic of the program. I am excited to learn from my peers and passionate professors who care about their work.
As a person who works in college admissions, I'll say the same thing I tell my students: Take your time. The application process is long. There are many documents and information you will need to gather and that's easier to do in a span of a few weeks than in a few days. Also, ask for help when you need it! There will always be people at the school willing to help you and guide you through the process.
Summer Stretch has been challenging in a new way. Pat Wong has been readily available to help understand the concepts behind math rather than how to arrive at the correct solution. A few of my classmates have also began a study group that meets weekly, which has been extremely helpful and speaks to the collaborative environment.
"I hope to work in a setting where I am creating widespread change within the education system. I want to create and drive equity and access programs for marginalized communities." —Chelsi Chang
I want to grow as a professional and as a person who thinks critically about policy issues across the globe. I am hoping to learn from professors who challenge my world view and cause me to think deeper about my own beliefs. I am excited to learn in a new capacity and utilize different concepts and theories to approach real-world issues. I am equally excited to gain hands-on experience that will help me understand what policy looks like when they are implemented.
I hope to work in a setting where I am creating widespread change within the education system. I want to create and drive equity and access programs for marginalized communities. There has been a disproportionate distribution of educational wealth within the United States that must be rectified, especially if we wish to address other widespread issues such as homelessness, poverty and imprisonment.
I am excited to learn and grow with people who have similar goals to change the world in mind. I am always willing to meet for a good cup of coffee and discuss social justice!
Kaitlyn Anderson, Master of Public Affairs
Policy area: Economic development, criminal justice reform and human rights
Anderson graduated magna cum laude from Baylor University, where she studied public relations and nonprofit marketing. In 2016, she took a gap year and lived aboard a medical mission ship in Papua New Guinea. She has worked for the Texas Senate, collective impact organization Prosper Waco, research and advocacy nonprofit Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, Australia's 99.9 LIVE FM, and religious freedom NGO 21Wilberforce.
The LBJ School is focused on results. I wanted to learn the quantitative skills necessary for a successful policy career — and it was clear to me that their alumni demonstrated a proven record of success in professional readiness.
The best way to get a feel for LBJ is to reach out to the OSAA team to plan a campus visit. I was able to sit in on a class and meet with an admissions representative, an academic adviser, professors and current students.
"I want to be an evidence-based policy practitioner, and the LBJ school will equip me with the skills I need to do so." —Kaitlyn Anderson
This summer, I have enjoyed getting to know the wide range of professors available to me at the LBJ school. Learning their teaching and research specialties has helped me plan what courses I want to take during my time in Austin.
One of the many reasons I chose LBJ was because it has a strong quantitative sequence. I want to be an evidence-based policy practitioner, and the LBJ school will equip me with the skills I need to do so.
I see myself working in policy research for a think tank or for an elected official.
Over the summer I was introduced to my classmates and professors through the Summer Stretch program. They are impressive and I can't wait to continue to learn from them.