Alyssa Studer (middle) pictured above with CONNECT Project Manager for Data Initiatives Ethan Tenison (L) and CONNECT faculty lead Dr. Patrick Bixler (R).
Alyssa Studer, Program Manager for the CONNECT program, received the Outstanding Staff Award from the President's Office. The award recognizes non-teaching UT Austin employees who have made outstanding contributions to the continuing success of the university. Alyssa received the award due to her outstanding service to the CONNECT program, which Alyssa has managed since its beginning in Spring 2019.
The CONNECT program seeks to activate learning from data and build capacity in students and community orgs for data, measurement and evaluation. To do so, CONNECT matches nonprofits and community organizations to UT Austin grad students who work on a data and/or evaluation challenge. Alyssa’s leadership over the past few years has had a significant impact on CONNECT, UT Austin graduate students, and the community. The program launched with a cohort of 13 student/org matches. Since then, it has grown into a signature program of the RGK Center and the LBJ School, with 193 projects and more than $1.4 million worth of deliverables to date. In just two years, CONNECT has provided more than $313K in financial support to UT Austin grad students. The program has not only grown exponentially in its young life but also has a 96% satisfaction rate of its students and orgs, due largely to Alyssa’s leadership and dedication to the program and its participants.
\Within her first year, Alyssa sourced and successfully managed the program's first international project in Guatemala. In 2020, Alyssa managed a group of UT Austin computer science undergrads, who developed a matching algorithm that improved the efficiency and accuracy of the CONNECT matching process; a process that used to take a team of faculty, funders, and staff several hours now takes less than an hour. Over the past year, Alyssa managed a GRA conducting an assessment of CONNECT’s DEI practices to improve the experience of student fellows and increase access to diverse student populations across campus. She works tirelessly to serve not only our students and community orgs, but other UT-system and state institutions of higher ed. Last year, Alyssa led the charge to replicate the CONNECT program at UT-Dallas and University of Houston.
As CONNECT continues to grow, Alyssa and other team members have been working on the challenge of how to make the program financially sustainable while still remaining accessible to nonprofits. This year, the program welcomed its first for-profit client, BB Imaging, into its Spring 2021 cohort. Alyssa has been the primary point of contact for our donors, who collectively have supported CONNECT with over $500K in grants since 2019. Alyssa has innovated new and alternative revenue streams, such as corporate philanthropy, private sector CONNECT fellows, plus developing a scholarship review committee comprised of CONNECT student and org alumni, awarding five nonprofit scholarships per cohort to advance our equity goals.
Alyssa’s dedication to the CONNECT program serves as a catalyst for positive change for data management practices of nonprofit organizations in the Central Texas community and beyond, helping organizations track and improve their impact. Her work with the program supports organizations serving some of our most vulnerable populations and develops student leaders with a heart for the nonprofit sector.