Spring 2021 CONNECT Cohort Announced

CONNECT spring cohort logos

The Spring 2021 CONNECT cohort has officially begun, with 22 partner organizations matched to graduate students from The University of Texas at Austin. Of the organizations participating in the program this semester, 13 are returning, some working on a continuation of a project they began in the fall 2020 semester.  

“It's fantastic seeing so many organizations in Central Texas reflect on their measurement strategies and how they can improve them,” said Alyssa Studer, CONNECT program manager. 

Matt Williams, a consultant with Austin ISD’s Career Launch program, began working with CONNECT in the fall 2020 semester. “RGK's expertise is instrumental to ensure teams are focused on the right data, without bias, to make the best decisions for their organization,” said Williams. “Knowing a team of experts, with a novel perspective, is critical to your decision-making process.” 

The CONNECT program is currently funded by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, the Bill Wood Foundation, and St. David’s Foundation. It also receives program support from participating nonprofit organizations and student fellowship funding from the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service. The program has worked with 76 graduate students and 71 organizations since its beginning in 2018. Students are paired with nonprofit organizations that have a data management, evaluation, or measurement challenge.  

“The CONNECT program has been a critical part of my personal and professional development as a graduate student,” said Amanda Cantu, a MSSW candidate from the Steve Hicks School of Social Work. “I have strengthened my skills in problem solving, communication, leadership, and so much more, and am thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in another outstanding CONNECT project that will empower me for a successful future.” 

Projects range from literature reviews and survey creation/administration, to data analysis and GIS mapping. This semester, $36,000 in support will be presented to graduate students to acknowledge their participation in the program. The CONNECT program often recruits students with data, consulting, and research skills, but also provides support for students to build expertise in any areas in which they have room for growth. In the fall, CONNECT students attended virtual workshops on consulting best practices led by RGK Center professor Charlee Garden and a resume workshop led by the Texas Career Engagement office.  

“Even more exciting than the large number of returning CONNECT Fellows, is the fact that many of them will have the opportunity to expand their skillset even further, working on different types of projects than they previously were matched with through past cohorts,” said Studer.  

Noorah Alhasan, a Ph.D. student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and a two-time CONNECT fellow, is returning this semester to work with Matt Williams in AISD’s Career Launch program. "As a CONNECT Scholar, I get the opportunity to apply the skills I gained at the LBJ School on a project that directly impacts my local community,” said Alhasan. “The experience is invaluable, and it's a privilege to be an active member of my community.” 

The CONNECT program is spearheaded by RGK Center faculty member Dr. Patrick Bixler and is coordinated by Alyssa Studer. To learn more about the CONNECT program, watch this video and visit our website.  

The organizations participating in the spring 2021 cohort are listed below (* designates a returning organization):  

  • Healthcare Workforce Alliance of Central Texas* 

  • Todo Juntos* 

  • Capital IDEA* 

  • Austin Independent School District, Office of Innovation and Development*  

  • Goodwill Excel Center* 

  • Latinitas  

  • Austin Independent School District, Career Launch Program*  

  • University of Texas at Austin, The Impact Factory (formerly Financial Health Studios)* 

  • Any Baby Can 

  • Texas Health Institute* 

  • Texas Suicide Prevention Collaborative 

  • Leadership Austin* 

  • Central Texas Allied Health Institute* 

  • Literacy Coalition of Central Texas* 

  • Out Youth* 

  • Dell Medical School 

  • Philanthropy Southwest* 

  • Water With Blessings 

  • Central Texas Education Funders* 

  • Dress For Success Austin 

  • University of Texas at Austin Bridging Barriers, Planet Texas 2050 

  • Veteran Women's Enterprise Center* 

Jan. 11, 2021