Student Spotlights: Spring 2020 Portfolio Graduates

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Lily Feldman, MPAff, LBJ School of Public Affairs

Favorite classes: Dr. David Springer’s Leadership as a Catalyst for Community Change-- “It gave me an opportunity to figure out what skills I have and taught me to lead from where you are. It really helped me break down the imposter’s syndrome and identify my skills.” Also Helen Gaebler’s Topics in Reentry: Criminal Justice-- “This was specifically interesting to me because I’m interested in reentry, so I learned about all the hurdles there are in our landscape. Professionals from the field and grassroots advocates were brought in—it's actually where I learned about the Reentry Roundtable, which segued into my volunteering.” 

Volunteer experience: Austin-Travis Reentry Roundtable-- “I helped create a demographic profile for people being released in Travis County to be used as a tool for second change rehiring. Now they’re using the tool to distribute to partners and volunteers to show how they want to help. I used my volunteering as a networking opportunity and a chance to teach myself something.” 

Internship: waived through employment with Austin Housing Authority  

Area of interest: Criminal Justice Reform 

Advice to incoming/continuing students: "Imposters syndrome is so real! It helps to ground yourself and know that everyone is same boat. Take classes that are interesting to you. Getting caught up in requirements was difficult for me, but I took the reentry law class first thing rather than a core class like microeconomics, and that helped me realize this was something I wanted to stick with when things got harder. You get these networks and meet great people."


Brent Fields, PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy, College of Education 

Most impactful classes: "Courses (like Public Management at LBJ and Leadership in Human Service Organizations at the School of Social Work) that allowed me to examine leadership from a different framework than the nonprofit/education landscape where I have served most of my career. I appreciated learning more about how leadership practices are applied in a public or state agency setting and being around students who have experience from those sectors. Also: Independent study with Dr. Howard Prince. "We met weekly to talk about leadership theory and it greatly influenced the proposal and literature review for my dissertation. I called it “Tuesdays with Howard” and it was a priceless experience to have that one-to-one time with such a celebrated scholar and practitioner in the field of leadership." Also: Leadership Lab with Charlee Garden. "A class that was so focused on the emotional intelligence aspects of leadership was a perfect contribution to my academic coursework. I was so grateful for the opportunity to receive several one-on-one coaching sessions with her - what a gift! One of my favorite takeaways from that class was the opportunity to do a passion project of our choosing and it was a transformational experience for me."

Research area of focus: Presidential Transitions: The Profiles, Plans, and Perspectives of Texas’ Community College Presidents

Volunteer experience: Serving as the Board of Trustees Chair for a national nonprofit and leading them through a leadership transition with the retirement of their founder and hiring of their first CEO

Advice to incoming/continuing students: "The best advice I could offer to other students in the program is to determine your development goals for the time you’re in the program and take the initiative to create a path for achieving it - don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. For example, one of my personal goals is that before I leave this campus, I want to have identified and engaged with some of the greatest leaders and greatest academic minds on leadership...I used my position as a student to get my foot in the door with people I've wanted to connect with. Being part of the RGK portfolio program afforded me access to resources and experiences within the school of Public Affairs that gave me a more well-rounded academic experience at UT - complimenting the awesome experience of my core coursework within the College of Education."


Becca Bice, MPAff, LBJ School of Public Affairs

Kozmetsky Scholar, CONNECT Fellow

Favorite class: Grant Writing, Julia Cuba-Lewis (School of Social Work) “It was good to get exposure to social work students because you end up working with a lot of social workers in nonprofits, so it was helpful understanding their mindset. It covered a lot of basic, practical fundraising strategy and I now have writing samples for grants." 

Volunteer experience: Foundation Communities, healthcare signup during open enrollment

Internship: Texas Workforce Commission “It was helpful for me because it was at a state agency and it was policy focused, which I didn’t have any background in. It was a good way to test out a policy job and get connections in a state agency.”  

Area of interest: “I’m interested in working with adults who are on the cusp of self-sufficiency but who might be one disaster away from losing their job or housing—so that falls into a lot of categories. I want to help get people over that edge so they’re stable. Right now, I’m thinking of keeping up with the healthcare aspect of that, because healthcare is such a make-or-break aspect of self-sufficiency.”  

Advice: “For nonprofit-focused folks, don’t be intimidated by policy development; take it in your first year if you can. I put it off because I was intimidated, and I think if I had taken it earlier I would have had a much better perspective on policy and nonprofit work.”  



Miranda Badgett, MPAff/MSSW, LBJ School of Public Affairs/Steve Hicks School of Social Work

Favorite class: Financial Management in Human Services, Professor Russell Smith (School of Social Work) "As someone who doesn’t have background in accounting and finance, it was a really accessible way to bridge concepts at an introductory level. I gained hands-on experience to learn about nonprofit sustainability through practical assignments. Most importantly, it gave me insight into the process that goes into making financial decisions and how nonprofit administration have to be creative in revenue streams." 

Skills learned through the program: "I really learned a lot about fostering interpersonal relationships and skills, collaborating, communication, and leadership. Through all of the classes I took, I learned a wide variety of skills related to the various dynamics of nonprofit administration. Implementing program evaluation to best respond to the needs of clients, understand theories about engaging stakeholders in the wider community. I got to learn about using evidence-based approaches in nonprofit initiatives and generally how to create a positive work culture and environment for employees and that projects align with furthering social justice."

Volunteer hours: Girls Empowerment Network

Field placement: Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders; National Coalition of STD Directors in Washington, D.C.  

Nonprofit area of focus: Nonprofit advocacy work, specifically the interconnection with community outreach and engagement. "With NCSD I learned a lot about capacity building for social change and the advocacy process on multiple levels. I enjoy doing that, it’s the interplay of advocacy and community outreach and engagement that really combines a lot of my skills I’ve been able to learn."

Advice for incoming/continuing students: "It sounds cliché, but keeping an open mind, asking for help, and advocating for yourself. It's so easy to come into the program with a really set idea of what you want to do and where you see yourself, but through your program and the RGK portfolio, there are so many different opportunities to explore. It’s important to be flexible--if something sounds interesting, definitely explore that. Take an elective about something you don’t know or sit down and chat with someone about their career trajectory. Ask for what you want and need to get what you desire out of your grad experiences."

Favorite class: Consulting for Social Impact (Charlee Garden) "It was fantastic and one of the classes that had the biggest impact on me out of my whole LBJ experience. Before, I had this mindset that leadership and power were an institutional thing. But through her class I learned how to influence change and impact when you don’t have that institutional power. It was very impactful, especially looking at it through a nonprofit lens, because that’s essentially what nonprofits do." 


Jordan Kizer, MPAff, LBJ School of Public Affairs

Favorite class: Consulting for Social Impact, Charlee Garden "It was fantastic and one of the classes that had the biggest impact on me out of my whole LBJ experience. Before, I had this mindset that leadership and power were an institutional thing. But through her class I learned how to influence change and impact when you don’t have that institutional power. It was very impactful, especially looking at it through a nonprofit lens, because that’s essentially what nonprofits do." 

Volunteer: Recovery People, TROHN (through Consulting for Social Impact), Outdoor Mindset (through Mobilizing Community and Engaging Volunteers), and Fostering Hope (through Program Evaluation for Nonprofit, Public, and Social Impact Initiatives)

Internship: New Wave Feminists "My favorite part was learning a lot about the challenges that come with organizing a nonprofit. I worked directly with the executive director and got more in the details of what exactly it means to be a 501 (c )(3 ) and how you organize that—all the technical details that go into making a nonprofit and making it work, learning about day-to-day operations." 

Areas of interest: Pro-life feminism, UBI, paid family leave 

Advice: "Everyone I’ve come across at LBJ had this inclination to get core classes out of the way first—don't do that, you will get burned out. Spread them out and you will have a much better time. If you see a class you think you’d like, take it right away, because you don’t know when it will be offered again. Also, find your tribe and dig into it. I spent my first year or so hopping around between a lot of different things, but I didn’t end up being able to sink my teeth into any one issue area. I wish I had more quickly gone to the nonprofit studies area and focused on that my first semester."


May 18, 2020