Spotlight on: December 2023 Graduates

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December 18, 2023
Graphic with headshots of Maddie and Penny

Join us in congratulating our two December graduates of the Nonprofit Studies Portfolio program at the RGK Center! 

Headshot of Maddie Clendening

Maddie Clendening, Master of Public Affairs

Policy area(s) of interest: LGBTQIA+ policy, criminal legal reform 

Favorite study location: All the coffee shops on the east side

Internship: Texas Justice Initiative 

Q: What drew you to wanting to study at the LBJ School? 

I chose the LBJ School because I am passionate about LGBTQIA+ advocacy in the South. UT offered a certificate in LGBTQIA+ studies and Austin is a hub for queer advocacy. 

Q: What was one of the most impactful experiences of your grad school experience? 

A: I took two Advanced Research courses with Professor Deitch and Professor Welch-- one on custodial death investigation policy and the other on initiatives that humanize the prison environment. Through this work, I learned important skills and developed my perspective on advocacy and social justice work in ways that will stay with me throughout my life.  

Q: What advice would you give an incoming grad student?

Don't be afraid to take school slow if it means you can spend time with your loved ones and pursue your hobbies.

After graduating, Maddie's plans include teaching ceramics from their home studio while on the job hunt.  


Headshot of Penny Snyder

Penny Snyder, Master of Public Affairs

Policy area(s) of interest: Housing policy 
Favorite study location: At home

Internship: Affordable Central Texas

Q: What drew you to wanting to study at the LBJ School? 

A: I went to liberal arts school for undergrad, where I received a lot of training in how to critique things. After I had been out in the world for a few years after college, I realized it would be valuable to not only recognize problems but understand, be able to wield, or even create the tools to solve them. I wanted to learn how to build things and make things happen to create the world I want to live in. I also was drawn to LBJ's legacy of domestic policy-making including the Great Society and funding for the arts and humanities, even though he was a complex, complicated figure. Even though the political landscape in Texas is pretty bleak right now, I am still inspired by a vision of how Texas and the South, with its economic growth and demographic trends, could be a laboratory for new, inclusive policy and leaders that want to pursue both visionary and everyday change. 

Q: What was one of the most impactful experiences of your grad school experience? 

A: Taking classes and being a graduate assistant for Patrick Bixler was probably the most impactful part of my time at LBJ. I had previously worked in community-based art and had a lot of instincts and ideas about how multiple organizations and lots of different kinds of people would need to be at the table to take on complicated public programs. His research and teaching really gave me an academic lens for this work--network/collaborative governance--and helped me find interesting policy areas where it is applied, such as in homelessness response. 

After graduating, Penny will continue doing part-time communications/programs/government affairs work for Affordable Central Texas while applying for full time jobs. She also plans on supporting some consulting projects with Clutch Consulting, a small firm that does system-level design for homelessness response systems.

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