Real Social Policy Challenges, Real Clients: The LBJ School Policy Research Project

The LBJ School of Public Affairs

LBJ School of Public Affairs masters students have opportunities to develop their research and policymaking skills through a cornerstone class called the Policy Research Project (PRP).

Over the past year, CHASP Faculty Fellows led several PRPs where students tackled key social policy questions and challenges while partnering with real clients:

  • CHASP Director, demographer, and family policy scholar Dr. Cynthia Osborne: "Enhancing Child Care in Austin" with United Way for Greater Austin
  • CHASP Faculty Fellow, sociologist, and aging scholar Dr. Jacqueline Angel: "Young Hip Austin is Getting Old: A New Experiment in Dealing with the Challenge" with St. David's Foundation
  • CHASP Faculty Fellow, former Texas Representative, public finance expert Sherri Greenberg: "Housing + Economic & Social Mobility" with HousingWorks and the Housing Authority of the City of Austin

More details below. Click for video about the LBJ School PRP.

2017-2018 #LBJsocialpolicy

Dr. Cynthia Osborne: "Enhancing Child Care in Austin" with United Way for Greater Austin

Early childhood is a crucial period for healthy development. Children who experience a stable, stimulating, and low-stress environment in their first five years typically have better social, cognitive, health, and economic outcomes throughout their lifespan than their peers who live in stressful environments. Children who show up to kindergarten ready to learn signal that they possess the necessary cognitive, developmental, and social-emotional skills that will support long-term growth and development. Unfortunately, children born to parents with lower levels of education or fewer resources are typically less prepared for school than their peers, and these gaps frequently persist throughout their schooling and into adulthood.

For nearly four years, early childhood advocate, United Way for Greater Austin has implemented their Success By 6 Early Language Coaching program, placing early childhood coaches in child care center classrooms to help children improve their receptive vocabulary skills. As part of these efforts, the coaches collect pre-intervention and post-intervention data on the children using the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) for English speakers and the Test de Vocabulario en Imágenes Peabody (TVIP) for Spanish speakers. Both nationally recognized tests determine growth in “receptive vocabulary,” or the child’s grasp of words and concepts understood through listening, which tends to be highly predictive of subsequent school achievement.

To determine the impact of the program on outcomes, the PRP team conducted pre-intervention assessments on children during the fall of 2017 and then analyzed the pre- and post-intervention assessments collected over the previous three program years (2014-2015, 2015-2016, and 2016-2017).

Members of the 2017-2018 Enhancing Child Care in Austin PRP with Dr. Cynthia Osborne: Heather Allison, Laura Aranda, Angelica Ferrandino, Adrián Gaspar, Fiona Gilmore, Laura Gorsky, Amie Harris, Rehan Hasan, Wayne Holstine, Heidi Kahle, Clare Lanaux, Amanda Macune, Mary Mills, Hanna Munin, Sanaa Rafique, Victor Matthew Saenz, Stefan Silveira. (Photo: Elizabeth Petruy, Teaching Assistant)


Dr. Jacqueline Angel: "Young Hip Austin is Getting Old: A New Experiment in Confronting the Challenge" with St. David’s Foundation

In 2015, Central Health’s Planning Regions Overview, 2014-19 projected a rapidly growing senior population in Austin. This growth will include a significant increase in the number of low-income seniors, most of whom will struggle to access the health and social services that they need. The 2013 Mayor’s Task Force on Aging reported that 40 percent of Central Texas seniors worry about their ability to pay for catastrophic healthcare expenses. The coming wave of graying Baby Boomers requires that Austin develop new and innovative ways to improve available health and social services for everyone, including seniors. 

In response to this challenge, the Young Hip Austin is Getting Old: A New Experiment in Confronting the Challenge PRP sought to create a new and innovative model of senior healthcare. This model, Age-Inclusive Center (“the Center”), expands current public health services to co-locate geriatric primary care and senior services with child care and an adult day center that also includes a telebehavioral health program for depression. The Age-Inclusive Center model builds on both the 2015-16 PRP A Better Life for Low-income Elders in Austin funded by Central Health and St. David’s Foundation, and also an award-winning student proposal presentation by LBJ students at the 2017 University of Pennsylvania Invitational.

Through the year-long project funded by St. David’s Foundation, the team began to develop a public-private business plan to address the care needs of one of Austin’s most needy areas. More about project at

Update: Congratulations to the students of Dr. Angel's PRP for receiving the 2018 Central Texas American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) James McGrew Research Award, which recognizes outstanding student research in the field of public administration and/or public policy. Read more.

Members of the 2017-2018 Young Hip Austin is Getting Old: A New Experiment in Confronting the Challenge PRP with Dr. Jacquline Angel and alumnus Sam Storey:  Oliver Bjornsson, Kayla Brown, Murphy Carter, Robert Epstein, Madison Gove, Tamara Keeney, Lin Rui Li, Ross McKinney, C.G. Niquette, Sarah Rush, Andrew Scoggin, Daniel Vuong.


Sherri Greenberg: "Housing + Economic & Social Mobility" with HousingWorks and the Housing Authority of the City of Austin

For clients HousingWorks and the Housing Authority of the City of Austin, students examined the connection between housing and mobility and the access to predictors of economic and social mobility such as education, health care, open space and social opportunities. 

Panelists from Sherri Greenberg's 2017-2018 PRP "Housing + Economic & Social Mobility" during Barbara Jordan Week: Audrey Muntz, Jacob Barrett, Mathew Smith, and Alix Bronner - with alumnus Awais Azha.