Anita R. Brown-Graham


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.


Sharon Adams

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.


Darren Boone

IEI Facility Coordinator

Darren is the Facility Coordinator for IEI. Prior the joining IEI, he worked as Executive Director at The BOCC Dream Center. Darren studied criminal justice at Erie Community College in Buffalo, New York and is currently pursuing CCNA certification.


Donnie Charleston

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.


Diane Cherry

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.


John Coggin

Principal Gifts Officer

John Coggin is the Principal Gifts Officer at the Institute for Emerging Issues, where he builds
relationships with foundations and corporations for programmatic development and statewide civic engagement. He began with IEI in 2011 as the first Emerging Leaders Fellow. As a Fellow, he led and expanded the Discovery Forum for Emerging Leaders, institutionalized the Emerging Leaders Fellow program, and planned the Redesigning Democracy Summit, which brought national experts in policy, technology, and design to discuss the future of civic engagement  in the first event held in the Emerging Issues Commons. He also assisted with the completion of IEI’s Legacy in Action Campaign by writing grants, building relationships with donors, and engaging groups from across North Carolina in the work of the Commons.

John’s experience outside IEI includes leading an NCSU study abroad program to Oxford University, teaching college courses in religion, politics, and economics, and serving in constituent relations with members of the US Congress. John holds a Masters in Theological Studies from Harvard  University, where he studied social capital under Robert Putnam, as well as a Bachelors of Arts in Communication from NC State University.


Simone Collman

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 received 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.


Patrick Cronin

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.


Kendall Hageman

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.


Allison Hawkins

Emerging Leaders Fellow

Allison works to engage students and young professionals in IEI’s work. Prior to joining IEI she worked at UNC General Administration, was on the communications team for a gubernatorial campaign, and administered a Rural Center grant in Caswell County focused on youth engagement. She earned a B.A. in History and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a proud native of Brevard, NC.


Wilson Harris

Events Assistant

Wilson Harris is an Events Assistant and Front Desk Manager at IEI. He received his BA in Sociology from North Carolina State University in August 2013. Before graduating, he worked on a construction and restoration crew. Wilson has always had a passion for music and art. A former member of the NC State University Chorale, Wilson received a scholarship to sing at Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church. His hobbies include mechanics, woodworking, blacksmithing, knitting, crochet, and pottery.


Wilson is currently enrolled in a course to teach English as a second language. He hopes that one day he will be able to teach overseas, specifically Japan.



James Herrick

Technical Manager

James is the Technology Manager to the Institute for Emerging Issues. He oversaw the technical build up and build out project of the IEI Commons and eleven meeting space rooms. He also oversees the transition and expansion of IEI’s technical needs at the James B. Hunt, Jr. Library, and any technical needs that arise as IEI’s goals expand.


Ginny Inman

Communications Associate

Ginny Inman is the senior member of the Communications team at IEI. As a Communications Associate, she collaborates with policy managers in order to better communicate the goals, objectives, and details of the department and strategically cultivates IEI’s communication outreach throughout the state of North Carolina. Before joining IEI, Ginny worked as Communication Specialist at NCSU’s Department of Urban Affairs and Community service, where she produced videos and edited web content and the end of grade testing materials for the state of North Carolina. She holds a M.A. in Communications from North Carolina State University and a B.A. in Communication Studies and a minor in Journalism from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.


Juan Isler

Technical Coordinator

Juan is a Technical Coordinator at IEI. He is a native of Kinston, NC, and he did his undergraduate work at Winston-Salem State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Music Business. Juan is also a singer and former dancer with the street dance team “ART” from Winston-Salem State University. Juan has had a professional career in television as a production assistant, crew chief, and television director for WXII-TV12 in Winston-Salem, NC, and later as a television director and production supervisor for News14Carolina in Raleigh, NC.


Leslie Keena

Communications Associate

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.


Sarah Marie Langer

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 and other cross-issue area projects. 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. She is a graduate of Leadership North Carolina and has been recognized by the Triangle Business Journal with the 40 Under 40 award.


Liwei Lin

Data Manager

Liwei Lin is the Data Manager at IEI. In this role, she manages a growing database of information related to emerging issues in North Carolina. She also utilizes statistical and geographic information systems software to support data-driven research and public engagement efforts. Her current focus is on broader application of data visualization of the Emerging Issues Commons. Liwei holds a Ph.D. in Forestry & Environmental Resources from NC State University with a graduate minor in Geographic Information System, and a MPIA from University of California, San Diego.


Leslie Stewart

Annual Gifts Director

Leslie serves as the Director of Annual Giving. Prior to joining IEI, she worked as a Regional Development Officer with the North Carolina Community Foundation. She has also served in multiple capacities in the nonprofit sector, specializing in fundraising for annual campaigns, capital campaigns, endowment campaigns, in philanthropic partnership with professional advisors creating planned gifts, and in strategic planning. Leslie also brings a background in marketing and public relations, having worked previously as an account executive and consultant in the industry. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.


Christina Taylor

Accounting Manager

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

Executive Assistant

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.


Lateesha uzzle

Events Assistant

Lateesha Uzzle rejoined IEI in March 2013 as an Events Assistant. She handles administrative tasks and coordinates events on a daily basis. Prior to joining the IEI staff, Lateesha worked at North Carolina Central University as an Administrative Assistant in the Department of Public Health. She holds a B.S. in Business Management from Western Governors University and is pursuing a M.A. in Human Science with a Business Cognate from Liberty University.