Cynthia Osborne, Ph.D.Director
Dr. Osborne is an Associate Professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin and Director of the Child and Family Research Partnership at the LBJ School. She is also the Director of the Center for Health and Social Policy at the LBJ School. She has extensive experience conducting long-term evaluations of state and national programs, with the aim of helping organizations understand what works and why, and how to ensure sustainable implementation of effective policies. She specializes in collaborative partnerships and the real world application of academic research. Her teaching and research interests are in the areas of social policy, poverty and inequality, family and child well-being, and family demography. Dr. Osborne is also a Research Affiliate of the Population Research Center and a Research Affiliate of the Center for Women and Gender Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. She currently serves the Chair of the Responsible Fatherhood working group for the Fatherhood Research and Practice Network (FRPN), a long-term project of the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation. She is elected to the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) Policy Council, the leadership team responsible for setting policy and strategy for the association. Dr. Osborne also directs The University of Texas at Austin’s institutional membership of SRCD’s University-Based Child Family Policy Consortium. She previously was Director of the Project on Education Effectiveness and Quality (PEEQ), an initiative of the LBJ School of Public Affairs. PEEQ measured state educator preparation programs’ influence on student achievement for the Texas Education Agency. Dr. Osborne joined the faculty of the LBJ School of Public Affairs in 2005 after completing a post-doctoral research fellowship at the Center for Research on Child Wellbeing at Princeton University. Dr. Osborne holds a Ph.D. in Demography and Public Affairs from Princeton University, Master in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and Master of Arts in Education from Claremont Graduate University. Previously, Dr. Osborne taught middle school in a low-income community in California. [ Dr. Osborne's CV | Dr. Osborne's Faculty Profile | News Posts about Dr. Osborne | Contact Cynthia Osborne | Twitter at @BlahaOsborne]
Nora Ankrum, MPAffResearch Analyst
Nora Ankrum holds a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School. She holds a B.A. in English with a minor in Czech from The University of Texas at Austin. Before coming to LBJ, she was the Associate News Editor at The Austin Chronicle, where she covered local politics and policymaking with an emphasis on energy, the environment, and urban development. She also worked as a research assistant for journalist Lawrence Wright on his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. Nora currently assists with writing of reports, policy briefs, and other communication pieces for multiple projects. Contact Nora Ankrum.
Kaeley Benson, Ph.D.Senior Policy Associate
Kaeley Benson earned her Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. Kaeley’s research interests center around the development and wellbeing of children from low-income families. Outside of her graduate work, she has worked as a research assistant at the Yale Child Study Center and on the Texas KIDS COUNT project at the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Kaeley leads the family supports, early childhood intervention, and fatherhood teams at CFRP. Contact Kaeley Benson.
Sydney Briggs, MPAffResearch Associate
Sydney Briggs manages both child welfare and adolescent health projects at CFRP. Sydney's current work includes determining best practices for collaboration between Child Protective Services and domestic violence service providers, evaluating sexual education curricula in the community college context, and studying the effectiveness of Texas Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). Sydney is interested in how systems can best serve vulnerable populations, particularly those experiencing domestic violence.Before joining CFRP, Sydney conducted legal advocacy with victims of domestic violence at Jersey Battered Women's Services, performed Spanish-English medical interpreting for the New Brunswick Community Interpreter Project, and provided case management for survivors of human trafficking at Refugee Services of Texas. Sydney holds a Master of Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.A. in Spanish Literature and Culture from Rutgers University. Outside of CFRP, Sydney is a member of multiple social justice oriented book clubs, and she is an enthusiastic west coast swing dancer. Contact Sydney Briggs.
Lauren Cenac, MPHResearch Associate
Lauren Cenac holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree from Tulane University in New Orleans and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana. She worked as a journalist for more than 6 years in Louisiana before receiving her MPH in Maternal and Child Health. While in New Orleans, Lauren worked for the Louisiana Department of Health on statewide initiatives to improve maternity care practices and infant health outcomes. During graduate school, she also worked on a statewide report of racial disparities in birth outcomes in Louisiana. Lauren is currently part of the family supports, early childhood intervention, and fatherhood team at CFRP, working to evaluate Texas’ home-visiting programs. Contact Lauren Cenac.
Allison Dubin, MPHResearch Associate
Allison Dubin holds a Master of Public Health from The University of Texas Health Science Center and a Bachelor of Science in Business and Spanish from Trinity University. Before working at LBJ, Allison led research projects on the state nursing workforce at the Texas Department of State Health Services. During graduate school, she interned at the Livestrong Foundation where she conducted evaluation research on a cancer survivor support program and at Apple where she supported health promotion programming in the wellness department. Allison works on the Family Support team at CFRP where she focuses on early childhood and fatherhood research. She is currently conducting research for the home visiting evaluation project examining family retention and father participation in home visiting programs. Contact Allison Dubin.
Anna Lipton Galbraith, MPAffSenior Research Associate
Anna Lipton Galbraith is a senior researcher supporting CFRP's work in the areas of child welfare and adolescent health. Anna works with state and local partners in Texas to provide rigorous evaluation of programs and is passionate about using data to inform policy and implementation. Anna's research interests include social inequality, poverty, and child well-being. Anna holds a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and a B.A. from the College of Social Sciences at Wesleyan University. During her time studying at the LBJ School, Anna co-authored a report on the conditions for youth who are housed in Texas county jails and served as a Graduate Research Assistant for a project on the reclamation of the U.S. Congress. Before coming to LBJ, Anna worked on international legislative strengthening projects for the National Democratic Institute. Contact Anna Lipton Galbraith.
Michelle GutierrezResearch Assistant
Michelle Gutierrez holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government from The University of Texas at Austin. As a student, she worked in various areas of research including immigration, counterterrorism, and U.S. health care policy. Prior to coming to CFRP, Michelle worked as an intern at Girlstart, a nonprofit organization focused on increasing girls’ interest and engagement in the STEM fields. She currently serves as Chair of the Dell Children’s Medical Center College Volunteer Program, where she is responsible for overseeing hospital volunteers. Michelle is part of the family supports team on the early childhood intervention and fatherhood projects at CFRP. Contact Michelle Gutierrez.
Jennifer Huffman, MPAffResearch Associate
Jennifer holds a Master of Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Austin. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and a B.A. in Spanish from Texas Lutheran University, where she gained experience developing and conducting cross-cultural survey research in the United States and Central America. Jennifer has worked in research and evaluation roles for the Austin Office of the City Auditor, the McCombs School of Business, and the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. Jennifer is part of the child welfare and adolescent health teams at CFRP.
Jennifer Lawson, Ph.D.Postdoctoral Fellow
Jennifer Lawson earned her PhD in Social Welfare from the University of California, Berkeley and her MSSW from the University of Texas at Arlington. Her research interests include public child welfare services, child maltreatment, foster care, domestic violence, evidence-based family policy, and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). Prior to joining CFRP as a Postdoctoral Fellow, Jennifer was an assistant professor in the University of Tennessee College of Social Work, an adjunct instructor in the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare, and the research director for a nonprofit children’s mental health organization. She also has a practice background as a caseworker and supervisor at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Contact Jennifer Lawson.
Katie MercerResearch Assistant
Katie holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Vermont. As a student, she was a teaching assistant specifically in quantitative methods, and focused heavily on both quantitative and qualitative research methods throughout her degree. Katie also interned at the Burlington Department of Corrections and gathered research on gender differences in parenting within inmate populations. After graduating, she lived abroad for two years in Korea and Vietnam, teaching students with ages between five and 65 years old. Katie is part of the child welfare and adolescent health team at CFRP. Contact Katie Mercer.
Andrea Michelsen, MPAffResearch Associate
Andrea Michelsen is part of the fatherhood, early childhood intervention, and family supports team at CFRP. In particular, she helps manage CFRP’s fatherhood evaluations. Andrea holds a Master of Public Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University. Prior to coming to CFRP, Andrea worked in refugee social services at the International Rescue Committee in Dallas. Contact Andrea Michelesen.
Rebecca ShirsatResearch Assistant
Rebecca completed her B.A. in both Public Health and Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, and lived in Berkeley prior to moving to Austin. In Berkeley, she worked at American Medical Forensic Specialists, recruiting medical professionals around the country and connecting them to medico-legal engagements. She also previously volunteered with an organization called Peer Health Exchange and traveled to high schools throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, teaching adolescent health curriculum. Rebecca is part of the CFRP child wellbeing team specifically on the adolescent health projects. Contact Rebecca Shirsat.
Research Staff - Data
Ruy Manrique-Betanzos, MPaffResearch Associate
Ruy Manrique holds a Master in Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs. He earned his B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico (ITAM). Prior to coming to the LBJ School, Ruy performed analysis of electoral and judicial data as an advisor for the Federal Electoral Court in Mexico. He has also worked as a researcher for IMCO, a Mexican think tank, and as a data specialist for a major Mexican bank. He is a data specialist and part of the CFRP data team. Contact Ruy Manrique-Betanzos.
Kelli Mowdy, MSWResearch Associate
Kelli earned her Master of Social Work at Columbia University School of Social Work, where she later began the doctoral program in Policy Analysis. She primarily studied poverty, family demography and child wellbeing, and more specifically father involvement with non-resident children. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Pitzer College. Also prior to joining CFRP, Kelli worked with high needs foster care youth and mentally ill children. At CFRP, Kelli is a Research Associate on the data team and works on multiple projects. Contact Kelli Mowdy.
Holly Sexton, MASenior Research Associate
Holly Sexton holds a M.A. degree in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a B.A. in Psychology with minors in English and French from Centenary College. Prior to coming to LBJ, she worked as a data manager and research associate affiliated with research centers at the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center, University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, and most recently in the Human Development and Family Science department at the University of Texas at Austin. She also was a TEFL teacher as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon, Africa. Holly is the lead of the CFRP data team and manages data for multiple projects. Contact Holly Sexton.
Daniel Tihanyi, MPSAResearch Associate
Daniel Tihanyi holds a Master of Public Service and Administration from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. He earned his B.S. in Biology from The University of Texas at Austin, with a focus in Human Biology. Prior to coming to CFRP, he worked as a Graduate Research Assistant and conducted research focused on public education, the environment, and government data transparency policies. He also conducted environmental policy research as a Student Assistant at The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. As an undergraduate, Daniel volunteered at Seton Medical Center in Austin. Contact Daniel Tihanyi.
Erin Wu, MPHResearch Associate
Erin Wu holds a Master of Public Health from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from DePauw University. Prior to coming to CFRP, Erin lead the epidemiology team in the Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention Section at the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). In this role, she performed data analysis, and produced reports, maps, and factsheets to support a variety of health programs. Erin also worked as the epidemiologist for the Texas Asthma Control Program at DSHS where she focused on identifying high risk populations and improving asthma management for children in Texas. She is a data specialist and part of the CFRP data team. Contact Erin Wu.
Shujaat AliGraduate Research Assistant
Shujaat Ali is currently pursuing a Master of Public Affairs at the LBJ School as an international student. Prior to coming to The University of Texas at Austin, Shujaat worked in evidence based policy research in Lahore, Pakistan. He was involved with a large scale randomized controlled trial experiment on rural poverty alleviation techniques and was responsible for project implementation, surveys, data management and reporting. He has also briefly worked with child healthcare in the public health sector. Shujaat has an undergraduate degree in economics from the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) where his research experience included international trade and political economy. At CFRP, Shujaat is part of the data team and is involved with the data management for all projects at the center.
Alfonso Rojas Alvarez, MPPGraduate Research Assistant
Alfonso Rojas Alvarez is a candidate in the a dual Ph.D. program in Public Policy/Statistics and Data Science at The University of Texas at Austin, with a special interest in social policy evaluation and impact-based policy making. Born and raised in Costa Rica, Alfonso first got involved in public issues while doing his major in Political Science at the University of Costa Rica. He has also studied finance and economics to complement his knowledge with a broader business-oriented and quantitative perspective. From 2010 to 2013, he worked as an advisor to the Minister of the Presidency of Costa Rica. By working alongside the country’s first female President, he had the opportunity to grasp the impact that data based policy-making can have in government. In 2013, he enrolled in the Masters of Public Policy Program at the Goldman School at UC Berkeley. Afterwards, he worked as a Data Analyst at the Harvard Kennedy School before coming to UT. At CFRP, Alfonso works as a researcher in the Data Team, in projects related to family healthcare, access to social programs, and child visitation programs in the state of Texas.
Carlo CastilloGraduate Research Assistant
Carlo Castillo is currently a Master of Public Affairs candidate at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. He earned his B.A. in English from the University of Texas at Austin. Before starting graduate school, Carlo served as an AmeriCorps member for two terms. In his first term, Carlo worked with the University of Texas Outreach Centers as a pre-college advisor to students in Title I high schools. In Carlo’s second term at the University of Texas Elementary School, he worked as a volunteer and fundraising coordinator. He then worked as an English and math tutor for middle and high school students in the Austin Independent School District. Between his first and second years of graduate school, Carlo had the opportunity to further explore his passion for improving public education as an Education Pioneer Fellow. At CFRP, Carlo is part of the early childhood investments team and supports the pre-K program evaluation projects.
David MitnickGraduate Research Assistant
David Mitnick is a Master of Public Affairs candidate at the LBJ School. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from U.C. Berkeley. Before arriving at UT, David worked for several years as both a Research Assistant and Research Associate at Social Policy Research Associates (SPR), a contract evaluation firm located in Oakland, California. At SPR, David contributed to a number of evaluations related to education, workforce development, and philanthropic programs. David currently assists with several projects including those related to adolescent welfare and child health.
Erika ParksGraduate Research Assistant
Erika Parks is a first year Master of Public Affairs student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Before coming to LBJ, Erika spent three years as a researcher in the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center, working on projects related to juvenile justice, risk assessment, and local justice systems change. She managed the evaluation of a Second Chance Act Juvenile Reentry Program and the development of the Risk Assessment Clearinghouse, among other roles. Erika has also interned at the Bureau of Justice Statistics and volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) and with women returning to the community from prison. Erika holds a BA in mathematics and sociology from Pomona College. She supports CFRP’s work on the child welfare and adolescent health teams, specifically through data collection, analysis, and writing. She is currently working on the CPS Transformation and Re:MIX projects.
Frank SarnoGraduate Research Assistant
Frank is a first year Master of Public Affairs student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to attending LBJ, Frank served as an AmeriCorps VISTA in Lehigh Valley, PA. He worked to improve STEM mentorship programs in the area and to evaluate STEM curriculums. He has worked session in the Georgia Legislature and on several political campaigns. Frank is currently working on the child welfare team on the CASA and SAFE projects.
Caitlin SheaGraduate Research Assistant
Caitlin Shea is a Master of Public Affairs candidate at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and a Master of Science in Community and Regional Planning candidate at the School of Architecture. She earned her B.A. in Political Science from Southwestern University. Prior to graduate school, she worked on multiple political campaigns and as staff during two legislative sessions. During her first year of graduate school, Caitlin interned with the Center for Public Policy Priorities as the Research and Texas KIDS COUNT Intern, where she focused on research related to the outcomes and well-being of children from low-income families. At CFRP, Caitlin is part of the family supports team including early childhood and fatherhood issues.
Melissa StelterGraduate Research Assistant
Melissa Stelter is a Masters of Public Affairs candidate at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. She graduated with a B.S. in Animal Science and a minor in Secondary Education from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. Before coming to The University of Texas at Austin, she worked as an agriculture extension agent in Zambia with the U.S. Peace Corps and taught agricultural science in the Austin area. Melissa is part of the CFRP data team and works on multiple projects.
Kara Takasaki, MAGraduate Research Assistant
Kara Takasaki is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. She holds a Master’s in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago and a Bachelor’s in Sociology and English from Tufts University. Kara has worked with the Family Violence Program at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and is an appointed Commissioner for the City’s Asian American Quality of Life Advisory Board. She has been a research assistant for the UT Austin Population Research Center, The University of Chicago Consortium on School Research, and Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Before coming to UT, Kara worked as a budget analyst for Hawaii’s State Legislature, and has also worked for the City and County of Honolulu on mass transit, community services, and domestic violence. Kara currently assists with fatherhood projects at CFRP.
Lauren ToppenbergGraduate Research Assistant
Lauren Toppenberg is a Master of Public Affairs candidate at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas and a Master of Public Health candidate at the University of Texas Health Science Center. She earned her B.S. in Psychology and Spanish from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Before joining CFRP, Lauren was a project coordinator with the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living where she helped lead and evaluate a pilot intervention project in afterschool programs in Austin and Del Valle. Lauren has also served as a policy fellow at Bread for the World Institute in Washington, D.C. where she researched the measurement and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals related to poverty and hunger in the United States. At CFRP, Lauren is on the family strengthening team and works on projects related to fatherhood.
Pablo Varas Valenzuela, MScGraduate Research Assistant
Pablo Varas Valenzuela is student in the doctoral candidate in the economics program at The University of Texas at Austin. Pablo has a B.S. and a MSc. in Engineering Science from the Universidad Catolica de Chile. Before moving to Austin, he worked at IdeaPais, a Chilean Think Tank, doing policy research about education, poverty and family. He also worked as researcher and lecturer at the Universidad de los Andes (Chile). At CFRP, he is part of the data team and works on a variety of projects.
Kristyne BlackburnFinance, Grants, and Human Resource Director
Kristyne Blackburn is the Finance, Grants, and Human Resource Director for CFRP. Prior to coming to The University of Texas at Austin, Kristyne worked as an officer in the banking and finance industries for over 20 years with multiple responsibilities including budgeting, forecasting, and administration. Kristyne manages the finances, grant facilitation, and personnel needs for CFRP. Contact Kristyne Blackburn.
Wendy GonzalesOperations and Communications Director
Wendy Gonzales is the Operations and Communications Director for CFRP. She has been working in marketing and communications for over 20 years. Prior to working at The University of Texas at Austin, Wendy was a marketing executive managing multi-media campaigns and projects for her clients at advertising agencies and marketing departments in Texas and Virginia. She currently oversees communications strategy, technology needs, day-to-day operations, and special events for CFRP. Wendy is also the Operations and Communications Director for the LBJ School's Center for Health and Social Policy (CHASP). She works at the intersection of academic research, policy, and public interest for both CFRP and CHASP. Contact Wendy Gonzales.
Vicky PridgenOutreach Program Coordinator
Vicky Pridgen is the Outreach Program Coordinator at CFRP. Vicky is a mission-driven marketing professional with a B.A. in Cognitive Sciences from Rice University and over eight years of experience in communications, events, and program management. Prior to working at The University of Texas at Austin, Vicky served in the Peace Corps in both Niger and Madagascar and she remains passionate about community outreach and civic engagement here in Austin. Vicky currently works to advance the initiatives of CFRP and affiliated faculty by helping to communicate research findings and project news to internal and external stakeholders. Contact Vicky Pridgen.