Students in the Nonprofit Studies portfolio program spend their summers engaging in a variety of research, program support, and policy work with nonprofits across the country. Read more below about how a few of our current students spent their summer working in areas of mental health, homelessness, education, affordable housing, and sustainability research.
Aerin Abrams, MPAff/MSSW candidate
Internship with Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute
In her internship at the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, Abrams has primarily worked with the Paso del Norte Center, in addition to other projects across the policy implementation team. Abrams has been supporting the work of the Paso del Norte by conducting research and writing literature reviews on topics like behavioral health hospital redesigns throughout the state, sleep disorder interventions and their effect on behavioral health, and the use of the Sequential Intercept Model in juvenile justice settings. She has also supported additional projects, including a literature review exploring why foster youth complete postsecondary degrees at a much lower rate than the general population, and what intervention could a university implement to offer this population additional support.
I have learned so much about mental health policy through this internship, and the different areas it reaches into. There are a lot of different approaches to mental health care that reach far beyond the traditional inpatient units in behavioral health hospitals, and I’ve learned about models that are designed to reach wider swaths of the population that may have less intensive care needs. The model that the institute is strongly backing right now is the Collaborative Care Model, which helps integrate behavioral health in primary care providers' offices, and can be very beneficial for instances that do not require inpatient care. I’ve also learned about the need for effective policy implementation through working with communities and stakeholders to ensure they are actually getting the most out of the legislation being passed.
As of now I’ve mainly taken classes at the social work school, but the LBJ courses I’ve taken have helped me in this internship. The institute is very research and evidence oriented in their recommendations, so having extra experience with qualitative and quantitative research using a policy lens has helped me in writing and supporting various literature reviews.
This internship has really helped me zoom out into the macro world of policy. Being a dual degree student with social work whose prior work experience comes mainly from micro-level clinical work, this internship has helped me shift gears into the policy space beyond what I’ve been learning in the classroom. While I’m not sure if mental health policy is going to be my area of focus in the long run (although it will almost certainly intertwine with whatever specific social policy area I do pursue), I have been able to take a deep dive into a single policy area for the first time through this position.
David Cruz, MPAff candidate
Internship with Dr. Sherri Greenberg
This summer, Cruz has been working alongside Assistant Dean for State and Local Government Engagement Sherri Greenberg evaluating a homelessness services program at the City of Austin. The project's main emphasis is government, but Cruz explains that nonprofits play a "huge" role in collaborating with and supplementing City programs. Through the project, he has interviewed several people involved in the program, many of whom work for nonprofits.
This internship really shifted my perspective on non-profits. I had taken a course with an RGK professor, who had highlighted how the policy landscape is shaped by nonprofits. But seeing it in action in such a critical area made highlighted that working in government means working with third sector entities. Understanding the local landscape of nonprofits is critical to acting in any policy area.
More than tactical skills, LBJ has given me a more strategic mindset when approaching policy and public management. I find that I'm better able to clearly communicate about critical issues with others because of the courses I've taken at LBJ. I'm hoping this perspective will continue to serve me well as a civil servant after graduating.
I care deeply about direct services offered by state and local governments. Evaluating a specific program and getting deep into the weeds has been an eye-opening experience. I've been able to craft recommendations deeply rooted in interviews with civil servants, input from recipients, and observation on the ground. This approach to program evaluation is something I will carry with me throughout my career.
Tamar Farchy, MPAff candidate
Intern at Urban Leaders
Farchy's work as an Urban Leaders Fellow includes 20 hours a week consulting for a Denver-based local nonprofit organization and 20 hours working with a small team of fellows on a state policy project alongside Colorado State Senator Julie Gonzales. She is working with the nonprofit to research policy solutions to improve language accessibility at the Colorado State Capitol and increase state funding for adult education programs. The policy team with Senator Gonzales' office has been working on legislation to improve affordable housing in Colorado through the regulation of special development districts.
"This fellowship has been an incredible opportunity to learn about the inner workings of Colorado policy and the unique issues that face Coloradans. A large and unexpected part of my internship has been spent poring over bond packages and property tax rates - not areas I would have envisioned myself working in, but it's been surprisingly enjoyable.
"The skills and knowledge I've gained at LBJ have been indispensable to my success in this fellowship. Specifically, the writing skills that LBJ has honed and coursework on policy development, public financial management, and economics prepared me to tackle some of the highly complex issues I've been working on.
"This opportunity has given me further insight into the nonprofit sector as well as with legislative policy development. The connections I've made with other fellows on both a personal and professional level have also given me a larger career and support network. Although I didn't have much interest in working on legislation specifically, this fellowship has let me see the policy process in a new light and I hope to take that with me throughout my career."
Cooper Thompson, MPAff/M.A. candidate
Intern with Go Austin! Vamos Austin (GAVA) and Dr. Patrick Bixler
Thompson's work with local nonprofit GAVA includes reviewing results from the Austin Area Sustainability Indicators survey and identifying key concerns for residents in the neighborhoods GAVA serves. He has also worked on improving the survey questions to get more precise answers when it is administered again this fall.
Working with GAVA has been really exciting because I’ve gotten to translate the analytical and writing skills I’ve learned in the classroom into creating better diagnostic tools to help identify the needs of Austin’s most vulnerable communities. The most interesting thing I’ve learned so far is the number of different things you can learn about a community or neighborhood from just one or two different questions.
At LBJ I’ve learned a lot of data analysis skills and they’ve translated really well into my work with GAVA. Being able to use programs like R to sort through thousands of data points and identify trends across different communities has been really helpful in understanding how GAVA can adjust its programs to better serve its target communities.
This internship is helping advance my career goals by teaching me how nonprofit networks connect with each other and how the data from one can be shared around and strengthen multiple organizations all at once, even if they work in wildly different policy areas.