Press Release: LBJ School In the Arena Series Debut Episode, COVID-19’s Impact on our Cities, Now Available on the LBJ School Website

For more information:
Margaret Justus, Justus Communications LLC, 281-250-8253
Dr. Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Assistant Dean for Civic Engagement: 312-480-1868,


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LBJ School In the Arena Series
Debut Episode, COVID-19’s Impact on our Cities, Now Available
 on the LBJ School Website

This  week: The difficulty of balancing public safety and public health concerns
COVID-19 impact on jails and prisons

Featuring international expert Michele Deitch, Urban Institute VP Nancy La Vigne and
Fortune Society Vice President Ronald Day

“The LBJ School has always been at the forefront of the policy issues impacting our country, and COVID-19 offers a real-time opportunity for not only our students, but the public to see how policy is shaped, implemented and evaluated.”Angela Evans, LBJ School Dean

AUSTIN, TEXAS, April 6—Scholars at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin are creating one-of-a-kind, real-time programming, free of charge, for the public about the COVID-19 pandemic with the new virtual series LBJ In the Arena. Using Zoom video conferencing, the School, now celebrating its 50th anniversary, has swung into action and begun coordinating weekly discussions with leaders on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis.

The debut program on April 1, “Restarting Our Cities,” was hosted by LBJ Urban Lab Director Steven Pedigo and is available on the School’s website. Pedigo interviewed University of Toronto Professor Richard Florida one of the world's leading thinkers in urban studies and City Lab co-founder. Florida reviewed common factors around past pandemics and how these parallel the COVID-19 crisis and how the pandemic will reshape our cities going forward.

Pedigo also conducted an additional short interview with Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, an LBJ school alumna (MPAff ’98) who was intimately involved in the decision to cancel the SXSW international film, music and interactive festival. Pedigo also talked to Waterloo Greenway CEO Peter Cullen about COVID-19’s impact on public spaces. Both interviews are also archived on the LBJ School’s website, along with additional readings and podcasts.

This week’s session, April 8, will focus on the enormously challenging impact of COVID-19 on our criminal justice system, such as the ongoing situation at New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex. There, according to a recent New York Times report, more than 300 inmates and prison staff have tested positive and public officials across the country are balancing the question of public safety as they work to release nonviolent inmates.

LBJ School Senior Lecturer Michele Deitch, an international expert on prison and jail oversight, will talk with Urban Institute Vice President and LBJ School alumna Nancy La Vigne (MPAff ‘91) and Dr. Ronald Day, vice president of the Fortune Society, a program that supports successful reentry from incarceration. Day is a criminal justice advocate who was formerly incarcerated, and La Vigne brings a lens of state and local reforms in the criminal justice arena. Deitch will also discuss her recent white paper: Recommended Strategies for Sheriffs and Jails to Respond to the COVID-19 Crisis.

LBJ In the Arena series takes place every Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. CST via Zoom. Registration for these virtual sessions can be found on the LBJ School Eventbrite page. All session content — including associated videos, readings and summaries — will be made available by Friday on the LBJ School website and YouTube channel.

Coming up:

  • April 8, 2020: LBJ In the Arena: Jails and Prisons in the era of COVID-19

LBJ Senior Lecturer Michele Deitch, the leading international expert on prison and jail oversight, sits down with LBJ School alumna Nancy La Vigne, vice president for justice policy at the Urban Institute, and Dr. Ronald Day, vice president of programs at the Fortune Society, to discuss the far-reaching effects of COVID-19 on the criminal justice system, including policing, confinement conditions in jails and prisons, and state and local reforms.

  • April 15, 2020: LBJ In the Arena: Managing the Fiscal Meltdown

LBJ Professors James Galbraith, a world-renowned economist, and Michael Lind, one of the nation’s foremost public intellectuals, unpack the human impact of the economic crisis set off by the current public health crisis. Galbraith and Lind bring a set of perspectives that bridges history, economic theory and practical experience in the international and national policy making arenas.

LBJ In the Arena grew out of the School’s planned 50th anniversary celebration, which has been postponed until October due to COVID-19. “In the Arena is a phrase made famous by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1910 and is the overarching theme of the LBJ School’s 50th anniversary in 2020.

About the LBJ School of Public Affairs

The LBJ School, founded by President Lyndon B. Johnson, celebrates its landmark 50th anniversary in 2020. Ranked #8 among the nation's graduate public affairs schools by U.S. News & World Report, the LBJ School makes a difference, not only within the walls of academia, but also in the public and social dialogue of the world. Contributing viable solutions to society is the LBJ School's legacy and its signature arena. Its effectiveness in channeling the purpose and passion of students into professional careers is evident in the success of more than 4,500 graduates who are the living legacy of President Johnson's bold and fearless action. The University of Texas at Austin is home to the LBJ School. For more, visit

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