Texas Tech University

Education Policy Fellowship Program goes to Austin for fall retreat

Robert Stein

November 6, 2019

Members of the Texas Education Policy Fellowship Program pose with Harrison Keller, the Texas higher education commissioner

The Education Policy Fellowship Program is a nationally recognized leadership development initiative with a state site at Texas Tech.

Scholars in the Texas Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP) recently gathered in Austin for a trip inside the world of state education policy – with key Texas education leaders there to guide the way.

During a three-day retreat from Sept. 12 to 14, members of the 12-person cohort toured the pink-domed Capitol building and met with top education officials, including Mike Morath, the state's commissioner of education, and Harrison Keller, the commissioner of higher education in Texas.

Fellows discussed policy and advocacy with leaders of nonprofits Educate Texas and Raise Your Hand Texas, and they also sat down with the Austin Chamber of Commerce's head of education and talent development for a talk about partnerships between business and higher education.

The retreat was also an opportunity to meet and share ideas for the diverse fellowship cohort. Members live in El Paso, Houston, Lubbock, Midland, Austin and San Antonio and work at public school districts, a charter school, institutions of higher education, a STEM certification program and non-profit organizations.

Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath talking with members of the Texas Education Policy Fellowship program at the state Capitol in Austin
Fellows discussed policy with Mike Morath, Texas' commissioner of education.

"The Texas EPFP retreat was a thought-provoking, whirlwind of three days that enabled me to collaborate with peers from across our region on education policy," said Alyssa Cervantes Benavides, a Texas EPFP fellow and an educational researcher and policy advocate from El Paso.

"To share ideas with education and policy gurus, all of whom were equally passionate and driven for student success, was fascinating and inspiring. Additionally, the opportunity to discuss Texas initiatives on education equity, academic attainment, school finance and so many more subjects with top officials and advocates in Texas was amazing. As a person who has dedicated her career to education advocacy and policy, the retreat was a networking and learning session for the books."

The retreat aligns with the three pillars of EPFP – policy, leadership and networking. EPFP seeks to give scholars knowledge of state and federal policy, access to an alumni network stretching across the U.S. and opportunities to develop and demonstrate leadership skills.

"What I loved about our first weekend together is that we had some of the most important and knowledgeable in the same room as us and we were able to directly ask the questions that some of us have always pondered," said Karla Duran, a Texas EPFP fellow from San Antonio who works as a university-business liaison and an adjunct professor. "It was such a huge impactful moment to hear directly from those impacting educational policy in our state."

 Drew Scheberle, senior vice president of education and talent development at the Austin Chamber of Commerce, speaking to members of the Texas Education Policy Fellowship program at the state Capitol in Austin
Drew Scheberle, senior vice president of education and talent development at the Austin Chamber of Commerce, spoke about university-business partnerships.

EPFP is a 10-month professional development program sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) in partnership with multiple state sites across the country. Its mission is to recruit and engage a diverse and collaborative community of strategic leaders to promote equitable education policy.

The program expanded to Texas last year and is administered in the state through Texas Tech University. Texas EPFP is co-directed by three assistant professors in the College of Education: Rebecca Hite, Jessica Gottlieb and Jon McNaughtan.

Texas fellows will visit Washington D.C. in March as part of IEL's Washington Policy Seminar. The seminar is a capstone event that brings together fellows from all state EPFP sites to engage more deeply with the national discourse on education policy.

To read biographies and leadership statements for members of the inaugural Texas EPFP cohort, please visit https://www.depts.ttu.edu/education/outreach-and-research/epfp/meet-the-cohort.php.