Why public policy? New LBJers talk about why they're here | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin
New LBJ students for the 2019–20 academic year
A few of the new cohort of LBJ School students. Top row: Caitlin Casassa (MPAff), Stephen Fox (Dual degree MPAff/
Law), Megan Morris (MGPS). Bottom row: Jaime Cabrera (MGPS), Fred Rodriguez (MPAff)

 

Members of the newest class of LBJ students share their interests and their hopes for their time here.

Welcome to the 2019–20 academic year. Your decision to invest in a public policy education could not be more important or more timely.

You have chosen to enter the arena of public service because it is critical to the health of our democracy, and because you want to contribute to the greater good. Seize this opportunity and help address the most complicated challenges facing us as a society. Use your time here to follow your passions and to grow your knowledge and compassion.

Congratulations to the next generation of fearless public leaders. We're glad you are here.

 

Caitlin Casassa, Master of Public Affairs

LBJ MPAff student Caitlin Casassa

Moving from: Virginia Beach, Virginia

Education: B.A. in international relations from the University of Virginia

Policy area: Urban development

I recently finished my service in Peace Corps Madagascar. While in Madagascar, I saw corrupt governments hinder communities, leaving people with very few jobs and a frustrating public system. Some of the most profitable jobs are obtained through corruption. It is my desire to see how we can successfully create valuable jobs for underdeveloped communities. A competent and skilled workforce is an incredible asset upon which both developed and developing countries may capitalize on for growth.


"It is my desire to see how we can successfully create valuable jobs for underdeveloped communities. A competent and skilled workforce is an incredible asset upon which both developed and developing countries may capitalize on for growth." —Caitlin Casassa

Why public policy? Throughout my time living and visiting various cities, I have grown to love how cities connect people. Public policy is the perfect way for me to learn more about the issues that I care about while simultaneously equipping me with the technical skills I need to help urban areas develop.

Why LBJ? LBJ is a top-ranked school in a rapidly changing city. From the knowledgeable faculty to the opportunities around Austin, the combination was too good to pass up!

 

Stephen Fox, Dual Degree Master of Public Affairs / Law

LBJ MPAff/Law student Stephen Fox

Moving from: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Education: B.A. in philosophy and Certificate in theater from Princeton University

Policy area: The politics of climate change

I've done a lot of different work, but recently I've been focusing more and more on political activism. I've worked on reform-focused political campaigns, and campaigned to enact effective state-level climate change legislation with Elders Climate Action — Massachusetts. As far as I can tell as a nontechnical expert, the engineering challenges for adequately addressing climate change are difficult but not unimaginable. Instead, the barrier to action is political. I'm interested in learning how to assess different policies related to climate change mitigation and working to figure out how to generate the political power necessary to enact them.


"I'm interested in learning how to assess different policies related to climate change mitigation and working to figure out how to generate the political power necessary to enact them." —Stephen Fox

Why public policy? While I'm focused on organizing and political coalition-building to force action on climate change, I want to avoid selecting ineffective policies to rally around. In this fight, it's not enough to have a moral or ideological justification — we have to be right. Public policy seems to be the place to learn best practices for overcoming my biases and finding the policy that will actually get results.

Why LBJ? The opportunity to take a dual degree at the LBJ School and Texas Law was too good to pass up. I’m going to get a world-class policy analysis and legal education in buildings a five-minute walk apart.

 

Megan Morris, Master of Global Policy Studies

LBJ MGPS student Megan Morris

Moving from: Huaraz, Peru. Hometown: Portland, Oregon

Education: B.A. in economics, Seattle University (2014)

Policy area: Latin American policy, policy analysis

For the past few years, I have been running a nonprofit I co-founded in 2016, working with low-income women on emotional and economic empowerment topics. I worked closely with local government to provide services to indigenous women including handicraft training and access to local markets. Previously, I worked in cost-benefit policy analysis in Washington state. I am interested in marrying those experiences and am interested in learning more about policy analysis in international development, specifically in Latin America.


"While working in the nonprofit sector I have seen how significant public policy is to the success or demise of any intervention. ... It seems to me that public policy is the arena where I can affect most change, particularly in promoting policy research and evidence-based practices." —Megan Morris

Why public policy? While working in the nonprofit sector I have seen how significant public policy is to the success or demise of any intervention. I am convinced that evaluation and analysis could make a big difference in the systemic factors that sustain gender inequality and poverty in general. It seems to me that public policy is the arena where I can affect most change, particularly in promoting policy research and evidence-based practices.

Why LBJ? The LBJ School, being situated in a top-tier research university and being connected to various research centers, along with top faculty, provides an amazing opportunity for master's students to be involved in research on public policy. I was quickly drawn to the openness of faculty and students, and appreciate the down-to-earth feeling of my peers and faculty.

 

Fred Rodriguez, Master of Public Affairs

LBJ MGPS student Megan Morris

Moving from: Washington, DC

Education: B.A. in political science from Brigham Young University, 2012

Policy area: Tech and science policy, city and state administration, government affairs

I spent the last seven years living and working in Washington, DC. I began my career as a research intern at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and was subsequently hired as a political assistant for the 2012 election cycle. I spent the following six years in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, working for Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Rep. Ruben Gallego, Rep. (and later, Sen.) Chris Van Hollen, and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. I'm interested in building on my experience in the federal government, learning all I can while at the LBJ School, and working in the public or private sector, hopefully in areas involving science and technology, education, government affairs, or city and state administration.


"For as long as I can remember, I've held a firm belief that government can be a force for good in the lives of citizens. When used effectively, public policy can provide opportunities we may not have otherwise, and provide quality of life." —Fred Rodriguez

Why public policy: For as long as I can remember, I've held a firm belief that government can be a force for good in the lives of citizens. When used effectively, public policy can provide opportunities we may not have otherwise, and provide quality of life.

Why LBJ: Jessi, my wife, is from Rockwall, Texas, and we always knew that someday we would return to her homeland. After the birth of our daughter, Iris Jane, we decided to that we would plant our roots, permanently, in Texas. I'm interested in building on my experience and I know that LBJ is best equipped to help me achieve that goal. From being housed in the capital, Austin, to being a top-10 program, I knew the LBJ School, among schools in Texas and the greater United States, was the only school for me.

 

Jaime Cabrera, Master of Global Policy Studies

LBJ MGPS student Jaime Cabrera

Hometown: Monterrey, Mexico

Education: Bachelors degree in international business from Tec de Monterrey

Policy area: International trade and diplomacy

I worked at the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, as an assistant to the delegate on trade facilitation, where I experienced firsthand the role of policymaking in international trade relations. In 2016, I became a consular officer at the Consulate General of Mexico in Laredo, where I coordinated the department of public relations and legal affairs. In 2017 I switched to the consular protection department, to work on different policy areas such as immigration, civil rights, labor rights and access to health services for immigrants. My main interest is the use of trade policy as a tool for better diplomatic relationships and their interconnection.


"I believe that in order to make real change, we need to make sure we adjust our policy to accommodate to our ever-changing needs. There are policy challenges that cannot be tackled single-handedly by a nation-state and demand for global cooperation." —Jaime Cabrera

Why public policy? I believe that in order to make real change, we need to make sure we adjust our policy to accommodate to our ever-changing needs. There are policy challenges that cannot be tackled single-handedly by a nation-state and demand for global cooperation.

Why LBJ? The only school I applied to was LBJ. It's ranked No. 7 in global policy programs and it's realistically affordable for someone who wants to be in public policy.