For more than 25 years, Ruth Ellen Wasem was a domestic policy specialist at the U.S. Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Service. She has testified before Congress about asylum policy, legal immigration trends, human rights, and the push-pull forces on unauthorized migration. Wasem earned master’s and doctor’s degrees in history at the University of Michigan, largely funded by the Institute for Social Research. Wasem is currently engaged with a group of international scholars who are researching asylum and the rise of the political right, and she presented research papers focused on the U.S. context in Italy and Belgium over the summer of 2017. She is also writing a book about the legislative drive to end race- and nationality-based immigration. From this research, she has written “The Undertow of Reforming Immigration,” for “A Nation of Immigrants Reconsidered: The U.S. in an Age of Restriction, 1924-1965,” (University of Illinois Press, forthcoming 2018). Other recent publications include “The US Visa Waiver Program: Facilitating Travel and Enhancing Security,” (Chatham House, 2017), “Welfare and Public Benefits” in “American Immigration: An Encyclopedia of Political, Social, and Cultural Change,” 2nd Edition, (M.E. Sharpe, 2014), and “Tackling Unemployment: The Legislative Dynamics of the Employment Act of 1946” (Upjohn Institute Press, 2013).
Megan Marie Maldonado is a first year Masters of Public Affairs candidate at The University of Texas’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. She plans to graduate December 2019.
After graduating with honors from The University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelors of Arts in International Relations and Sociology, Megan served as the reading clerk in the Texas House of Representatives for the 85th session to gain exposure to the legislative process and public policy.
Megan’s interest in public service began during her four-year tenure as a program support specialist at Subiendo: The Academy for Rising Leaders, a high school summer program for first generation and low-income students throughout the state of Texas. Subiendo is an intensive leadership development program for high school juniors who work in groups to address an issue facing Texas surrounding healthcare, education, and energy/environment. The program’s mission is to empower the next generation of leaders in Texas to pursue higher education and civic engagement in critical fields.
During her undergraduate career Megan participated in multiple research projects, including conducting sociolinguistics research through the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Internship and assisting in geo-coding more than 2,000 foreign aid contracts under a USAID-funded research project with the research unit Innovations for Peace and Development. In March of 2015, she presented her capstone thesis on the “Ethical Dilemmas of Transnational Surrogacy in India” at the Graduate Student Emerging Scholarship in Women’s and Gender Studies Conference at the University of Texas at Austin.
Megan’s research interests focus on addressing inequities faced by vulnerable populations on a national and international scale. As a first generation college student herself, she is also interested in research and programming related to educational outcomes and higher education access for low-income and minority students.
After 26 years, Dr. Chris King retired from teaching in June 2017. An esteemed member of the faculty, Chris made a meaningful impact on the LBJ School of Public Affairs, becoming a professor who many alumni readily associate with LBJ. In his time there, Chris was committed to many activities related to the student experience, including recruitment and retention, academic advising, counseling, and new student orientation. Having served on dozens of academic committees, he also pursued both internships and career placements for many of our students over the years. An accolade to his teaching, he received the Texas Ex’s Teaching Award in 2007.
Chris was not only an outstanding professor, but also a widely-recognized scholar who has researched workforce, education, and social policy for more than four decades. His contributions to academic literature include book chapters, reports, and peer-reviewed journal articles. In 2012, Chris was selected as one of 20 national leaders in the Aspen Institute’s inaugural class of Ascend Two-Generation Fellows in part for his work designing CareerAdvance, an award-winning anti-poverty program.
He received other notable distinctions while at the LBJ School, including serving as the Mike Hogg Professor in Urban Management from 2003 to 2013 and received both the Staff Appreciation Award (2001) and the Dean’s Staff Excellence Award for Research and Commitment to Teaching (1994).
Following the retirement announcement in June, a farewell celebration was held on November 13, 2017. Chris will continue his research on workforce development and two-generation strategies at the Ray Marshall Center, where he served as director for eighteen years until 2014.
Michelle Plunkett is a second year graduate student in the Master of Public Affairs program at the The University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. She plans to graduate in May of 2018.
Prior to starting her master’s degree, Michelle completed a Bachelor of Arts in Music Technology degree at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She graduated with highest honors (Summa Cum Laude) and Bronze Tablet Honors (top 3% of the entire university graduating class) as well as completed the program in only three years. Her interests in public policy and research were discovered while studying music through seeing the impact that policy has on public arts programs and how reductions in funding for these programs negatively impact communities.
During the Summer of 2017, Michelle worked as a Research Intern in Washington, D.C. at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in the Office of Research & Analysis. At the NEA, Michelle gained firsthand experience working and conducting research in a federal agency. Her work as an intern involved combining internal agency data with other federal datasets to inform members of Congress of the economic impact of the NEA’s grant-making at the state- and congressional district-levels.
Michelle’s current research interests include using data to inform decision-making through statistical analysis, visualization, and GIS mapping.
As an anthropologist and advocate, Carol “Kelley” Ready has worked with women in Central America for almost thirty years. Initially inspired by the human rights work of the Committee of Mothers of the Disappeared in El Salvador, she learned to speak Spanish and documented the emergence of a feminist movement in El Salvador in the post-war 1990s. She has worked on a USAID funded project in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Her writing has examined the rise and decline of a Salvadoran lesbian rights movement, explored how Central American women’s organizations were fighting for women’s labor rights, and described how a Salvadoran organization, Las Madres Demandantes, fought against irresponsible fatherhood and for child support.
After dropping out from undergraduate studies at Cornell University, Dr. Ready worked as an offset printer at several locations including Red Sun Press, a collectively owned and operated political printing cooperative in Boston. Ultimately, she discovered anthropology and returned to academia to get a doctorate. After graduating from Goddard College, she received a master’s degree is Socio-cultural Anthropology from Northeastern University. She earned her doctorate at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
Dr. Ready has taught at a number of colleges and universities including The University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, Northeastern University, The College of Holy Cross, University of El Salvador, and several colleges in the City University of NY system. Over twelve years at the Master’s Program in Sustainable International Development (SID) at The Heller School for Social Policy and Management of Brandeis University, Dr. Ready worked as a Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Assistant Director, and Associate Director. Dr. Ready also coordinated the SID practicum program and taught courses on gender, development, and culture. She was awarded the Heller School Mentoring Award in 2008.
Her experience and research has enabled her to serve as an expert witness in over thirty political asylum cases for Salvadoran women fleeing intimate partner violence and LGBT asylum seekers. Dr. Ready helped found the Salvador Miranda Language School in San Salvador and the Friends of CoMadres in the US, participated in two humanitarian caravans to El Salvador, and co-founded Congo Action Now, a group which successfully lobbied for a bill on Congo Conflict Minerals in the Massachusetts Legislation. She has presented widely on her research and sat on the council of the Gender and Feminist Studies Section of the Latin American Studies Association. Her current research on reproductive health is in Jordan where she is involved in a two year project on reproductive and sexual health practices combining a medical anthropology lens and a reproductive and sexual rights perspective with a behavioral economic methodology.
Chance Nettles is an Undergraduate Research Assistant at the Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Resources. He is currently a junior at the University of Texas working on his Bachelor of Science in Public Health. Previously, Chance interned in the External Relations division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and was a House messenger for the 85th Texas Legislature. This semester he will be assisting with the Sectors Strategies for Equity project; an initiative that will explore the current role of sector partnerships in promoting equity goals, as well as identify barriers and best practices.
Charles Demakis is a first-year Masters of Public Affairs student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Charles graduated from Stanford University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religious Studies, with an emphasis on comparative ethics. Upon completing his degree, he moved to Prague in September 2007 to get his certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language and work as an English language teacher. He moved to Berlin in June 2008, where he lived for eight years, teaching English at private companies and community colleges (the “Volkshochschulen”), as well as leading language courses for the unemployed through the German Job Center. Charles returned to the United States in 2016 in order to pursue his Master’s degree in Austin.
In his current coursework, Charles is focusing on social policy, statistical analysis, and program evaluation. He is particularly interested in matters of labor, employment, and workforce policy, and how they relate to economic outcomes and social equity. During his first year at the LBJ School, Charles had the opportunity to work with Christopher King of the Ray Marshall Center on a Policy Research Project developing a two-generation strategy for Greater Austin. After graduating, he hopes to do policy research and program evaluation in the fields of social and economic policy, whether here in the United States or back in Germany.
Robert Earl McPherson was a major figure in designing and implementing leading-edge workforce and education strategies at the national, state, and local level over a career spanning more than five decades. He passed away in the early hours of December 9, 2016 after a protracted battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. Big Bob, as he was affectionately known to most of his friends and colleagues, was a central figure in Texas workforce circles and spent much of his career associated with the Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Resources at The University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, as a project director, associate director, and senior advisor and mentor to many colleagues and students alike.
We have created this memorial page to Big Bob and his work. Below you will find links to some of his work over the years as well as many photos. We invite former colleagues, friends, and family to share your thoughts and stories, including what his son Mark has referred to as “Bob-isms” in the comments on this website. And please send any photos you may have as well. (Photos can be sent to chris.king@raymarshallcenter.
Also, Liza Hallman, Bob’s widow, along with Bob’s children Mark McPherson and Kim James, want to invite friends and former colleagues to an open house at her home on Saturday, April 15th from 11am to 3pm. This will be a time for all of us to celebrate Bob’s life and share stories and photos of our time with him.
The Job Training Demonstration Project: The Conceptual Design (1992)
Engaging Employers in Public Workforce Efforts in Texas (1997)
Evaluation Action Plan for the Texas Workforce Development System (1997)
Improving Performance Measures for Texas Workforce Development Boards: Phase One: Summary Report (2002)
3 paper series on a Human Investment System for Texas:
Integrating Human Resource Programs: Recent Experience in Five States (1991)
Profiles of Workforce Development Programs in Texas (1991)
Building an Integrated Workforce Development System for Texas: A Radical Blueprint for the Future (1991, r. 1992)
4 paper series on Human Investment Strategies:
The Local Option: A Stronger Role in Workforce Development (1994)
A Labor Market Approach to Workforce Development (1994)
Building a Local Workforce Development Board: The Key Steps (1994)
Designing a Local Workforce Services Delivery System (1997)
L-R: Chris King, Bob Glover, Ray Marshall, and Bob McPherson; old Center for the Study of Human Resources location, 107 West 27th Street, Austin, TX, 1981
Bob McPherson and Chris King; old Center for the Study of Human Resources location on West 27th St, n.d. (mid-1990s).
Bob McPherson; Tx Assn of Workforce Boards gathering, n.d. (mid-1990s).
Workforce board directors Judy McDonald, Willie Taylor, Mary Ross, Rodney Bradshaw, and others with Bob McPherson and Chris King; Tx Assn of Workforce Boards gathering, n.n. (mid-1990s).
Workforce board directors Mary Ross, Rodney Bradshaw, Mike Temple, and others with Bob McPherson; Tx Assn of Workforce Boards gathering, n.d. (mid-1990s).
The late Chuck Nielson, former Texas Instruments Sr VP for Human Resources, Bob McPherson, and an unknown gentleman; Tx Assn of Workforce Boards reception, n.d. (mid-1990s).
Bob McPherson facilitating a strategic planning session for the Texas Association of Workforce Boards, n.d. (mid-1990s).
Attendees at a Texas Association of Workforce Boards meeting; n.d. (mid-1990s).
L-R: Bob McPherson, Ray Marshall, Liz Hallman, and others (LBJ Prof. David Warner in background left) attending re-dedication of the Center as the Ray Marshall Center; Austin, TX, June 1999.
Bob McPherson, Chris King, and guests attending the rededication of the Center as the Ray Marshall Center; Austin, TX, June 1999.
Chris King & Bob McPherson; Austin, TX, October 2008.
Bob Glover and Bob McPherson; Ray Marshall Center 40th Anniversary Celebration, Austin, TX, October 2010.
Former Texas House Representative Michael U. Villarreal, D-Antonio, joined the Ray Marshall Center in June as a Visiting Researcher (his title has since been updated to Research Fellow). Mr. Villarreal is currently pursuing his PhD in education policy at UT’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, where he hopes to apply his concentration in education policy to a teaching career in the future. Since joining the RMC team, Michael has spearheaded the Student Futures Network of Region 20, a joint effort of the RMC and participating school districts that are members of the Education Service Center, Region 20. Read more about the SFN here.
Michael Villarreal is a Ph.D. candidate in public policy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
Michael’s research interest includes the study of higher education systems (including student counseling, recruitment, and financial aid) that lead to improving the educational experience and outcomes of students who have been historically underrepresented in higher education.
Michael is currently leading an initiative called the Student Futures Network of Region 20. This is an education policy and research collaboration that aims to improve the academic and workforce outcomes of students in the San Antonio MSA.
Michael’s current research includes an impact evaluation of TEXAS Grants, a state-funded need & merit-based student grant program. In this evaluation, he is estimating the impact of grant aid on academic and workforce outcomes, including persistence rates, enrollment levels, grade performance, graduation rates, earnings, employment rates, and industry sector of employment after expected graduation.
Michael is also evaluating the impact of early college coursework on college access and completion. In this study, he is investigating how different types of early college coursework (dual-credit vs AP) are more or less beneficial to students. He is also investigating how different attributes of dual-credit (differences in subjects taught, location, instructor qualifications) may impact student outcomes to greater or lesser degrees.
Michael retired from the Texas Legislature after serving 15 years in the Texas House of Representatives. He served on the committees of Public Education, Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, and Ways & Means; and retired as Chairman of the Financial Services Committee in 2015.