Anita R. Brown-Graham joined the Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) as director in January 2007. Anita worked at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill’s Institute of Government for 13 years, training communities in strategic planning to revitalize their distressed rural communities. Her work inspired both rural and urban communities to work together for a better future for the state. Anita is a William C. Friday Fellow, American Marshall Fellow, and Eisenhower Fellow.
She previously served as law clerk to the Honorable William B. Shubb in the eastern district of California and as business litigation counsel in a Sacramento, California, law firm. Anita has provided significant training and written books and articles focused on developing the economic base of distressed communities. She also currently serves on the boards of several development organizations and foundations. Anita earned an undergraduate degree from Louisiana State University and, after attending graduate school at LSU, she earned a law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
IEI Office Coordinator
Sharon Adams joined IEI in October 2011. She is responsible for helping with accounting and administrative duties. Sharon previously worked in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as an Accounting Technician. Prior to working with CALS, she worked in the Food, Bioprocessing & Nutrition Services department as an Accounting Clerk. Sharon brings with her 15+ years of university and accounting experience.
Wendy Burkland is responsible for program operations and evaluation, ensuring that programs and services at IEI are delivered with appropriate budget, staff, technology, systems and procedures to exceed stakeholder expectations. Wendy’s major initiatives include leading internal project teams for the Hunt Library LEED certified building project, the IEI Commons software/social media platform implementation, a world-class exhibition featuring former Governor Jim Hunt, and IEI’s organizational performance metrics.
Prior to joining IEI, Wendy served for 10 years as Director of Human Relations and Organizational Learning at Fetzer Institute, a private operating foundation specializing in health policy and global engagement. Wendy holds a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership/Human Resource Development from Western Michigan University and PMP certification from the Project Management Institute.
Economy Policy Manager
Donnie Charleston is the Economy Policy Manager and works collaboratively with individuals from all sectors and areas of North Carolina to build capacity for collective action in this issue space. Prior to joining IEI, Donnie worked as a fiscal analyst for the NC General Assembly. He also previously worked as a research and policy analyst for the NC Association of County Commissioners where he examined issues of local government taxation and finance. He is a native North Carolinian and a graduate of NC Central University where he received his MA in Sociology. After receiving his MA, Donnie entered the doctoral program at NC State where he focused on the Sociology of the economy and industry. He has authored several publications on workforce development, deindustrialization, and the history of agri-business in North Carolina.
Environments Policy Manager
Diane Cherry is the Environments Policy Manager and works collaboratively with individuals from all sectors and areas of North Carolina to build capacity for collective action in this issue space. Prior to joining IEI, she worked as a budget and management analyst for the City of Raleigh, overseeing the development of the city’s operating and capital budgets. Diane has also worked as an environmental policy analyst at both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and at the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. In addition, she spent time in Washington D.C. at Resources for the Future, Inc. and at ABT Associates.
She holds a graduate degree in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Virginia. Diane serves on the board of the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association and is a graduate of Leadership North Carolina.
Commons Special Events Coordinator
Simone Collman joined IEI in 2006 as the temporary office assistant and has grown within the organization. As the former office manager, Simone managed the day-to-day operation of the office and all HR related matters. In her current role as Commons Events Coordinator Simone is tasked with managing the events that take place within the IEI Commons and assist with the scheduling of ongoing events booked at the IEI Conference Center. In addition to her work at the Institute, Collman is also a published poet and semi-professional caterer. Simone will receive a B.A. in Leadership in the Public Sector with minors in Political Science and Science Technology and Society from NC State University in May 2013.
Maura Conyngham is responsible for managing the fund-raising campaign for the IEI Gallery and Policy Lab at the future James B. Hunt, Jr. Library on NC State’s Centennial Campus. In addition, Maura seeks to secure the future of IEI’s programs by raising funds for an endowment. Prior to joining IEI, Maura served as Annual Fund Manager at Hospice of Wake County and was Director of Development Services at All Kinds of Minds, an educationally focused non-profit in Chapel Hill. She holds a B.A in American Political Science from Catholic University of America.
Assistant Director for Policy & Programs
Patrick Cronin works with IEI’s Director and talented staff to identify, define and develop the work of the Institute in ways that fuel collaboration and build ownership for action among IEI’s stakeholders. IEI’s work, including convenings, tailored research and publications, engages key constituencies from the government, business, education and non-profit sectors in North Carolina and beyond. Prior to joining IEI, Pat spent ten years on the faculty at the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Arizona. His research interests centered on economic competitiveness issues at the global, national, regional, and firm levels. He taught in Thunderbird’s distance learning program for Latin American managers for eight years. Pat received a B.A. from Middlebury College and an M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Education Policy Manager
Kendall Hageman is the Education Policy Manager and works collaboratively with individuals from all sectors and areas of the state to build capacity for collective action with a strong focus on education. Helping to steward NC’s vision of the future, Kendall works with all sectors of the education pipeline including Pre-K, K-12, community colleges, private colleges and the university system.
Before joining IEI, Kendall served as the director of public policy research for the Public School Forum of North Carolina. Kendall has also worked at the Department of Public Instruction as an accountant and allotment supervisor.
Kendall currently serves on the Exploris Middle School Board of Directors and is a member of the Women’s Forum of NC. She is a 2007-08 fellow of the North Carolina Education Policy Fellowship Program (also serving as co-coordinator from 2008 – 2012) and is a 2009 fellow of the Institute for Political Leadership.
Leslie Keena is the Communications Associate at IEI. She coordinates and develops multimedia content for IEI’s website, newsletters, and social media channels. She also addresses general communications needs for policy managers and the development team. Prior to joining the IEI staff, Leslie worked as a multimedia producer for Three Ships Media where she produced articles, videos and other content for various commercial clients. She holds a B.A. in Politics and a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Virginia.
Health Policy Manager
Sarah Langer is the Health Policy Manager and works collaboratively with individuals from all sectors and areas of North Carolina to build capacity for collective action in this issue space. Prior to joining IEI, she worked on physical activity and nutrition policy at the N.C. Division of Public Health and evaluated a multi-level childhood obesity prevention program at UNC Chapel Hill. She also worked to support and scale coordinated school health programs at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
Sarah holds a graduate degree in public health from the University at Albany. She serves on the board of the N.C. Parent Teachers Association and as a Board Trustee for the N.C. Alliance for Athletics, Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance and is a graduate of Leadership North Carolina.
Outreach and Engagement Manager
Jason R. Nelson joined IEI in October 2012 as manager of engagement and outreach. In this role, Jason identifies, cultivates and manages institutional relationships important to IEI’s mission of civic and policy engagement in North Carolina. Prior to joining IEI, Jason has worked with the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Government and Fidelity Investments, LLC. He has executed and led strategic projects in support of biotechnology, agriculture, and economic development policy and legislation resulting in North Carolina Strategic Plan for Biofuels Leadership, launching of the Biofuels Center of North Carolina, and 30 in 10: Growing North Carolina’s AgBiotech Landscape. A native of Roxboro (Person County), NC, Jason earned an MPA from American University and a B.S. in accounting from North Carolina A&T State University.
Melinda Walker is responsible for IEI’s strategic communications, always looking for new ways to engage more North Carolinians in IEI’s work. Her current focus is on further developing IEI’s latest tool, the Emerging Issues Commons. Prior to joining IEI, Melinda served as communications and new media associate for the National Housing Conference in Washington, DC, where she developed and implemented new media strategies to enrich NHC’s voice in the housing community.
Melinda holds a M.A. in Media and Public Affairs from The George Washington University and a B.A. in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Christina Taylor is the Accounting Manager for the Institute for Emerging Issues. She is responsible for financial reporting and budget management, as well as coordinating the day-to-day accounting activities of IEI. Prior to joining IEI, Christina worked as the accounting administrator for a government contractor where she oversaw all accounting activities of the company, managed government contracts, and ensured compliance with financial reporting guidelines.
Christina holds a B.B.A. in Accounting from Baker College and recently received her MBA at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC. She is an active member of the Institute of Management Accountants-Raleigh Chapter and the American Society of Women Accountants-Raleigh Chapter, and is a successful entrepreneur.
Davina Thrash currently serves as executive assistant where she provides comprehensive support to the Director. She joined IEI in 2006 as the accounting assistant overseeing the budget, contracting activities, and bookkeeping.
Davina has a very diverse background, starting with Executive Director of Programming with Visions Institute for Youth in Raleigh, NC; being a veteran of the U.S. Armed forces; and has been working in the non-profit sector for nine years supporting executive staff members with start-up organizations and companies as an entrepreneur.
Davina holds an A.A. in Business Management from Strayer University and is pursuing her B.A. in Business Management from NC State University.
Kathryn Wright serves as the Events Manager for IEI. She manages and coordinates all of IEI’s events. Kathryn brings diverse experiences to IEI and works on a collaborative mode to achieve the highest quality of events for the James B. Hunt Library and forum. Kathryn’s expertise has been gained through her work with the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce and a variety of other organizations in the RTP area. Her knowledge of the area is a major asset. She is a native of Raleigh and graduated from Peace College where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Human Resources and Leadership Studies.