Anita R. Brown-Graham joined the Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) as director in January 2007. Since then Anita has led IEI’s work to build North Carolina’s capacity for economic development and prosperity. Each year, she and her colleagues at IEI work with leaders across the state in business, government and higher education to focus on issues important to our state’s future.
Before coming to IEI Anita served for 13 years on the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Government, where she published books and articles as well as trained local leaders in community and economic development aimed at revitalizing their distressed communities. Her work inspired both rural and urban communities to work together for a better future. 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 is a William C. Friday Fellow, American Marshall Fellow, and Eisenhower Fellow. In 2013, the White House named her a Champion of Change for her work at IEI, and the Triangle Business Journal named her a 2014 Woman in Business for her policy leadership in the state. She also currently serves on the boards of several organizations. 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 assisting with the day-to-day accounting and administrative activities of the organization. Sharon brings with her 15+ years of university and accounting experience, having previously worked in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as an Accounting Technician, and in the Food, Bioprocessing & Nutrition Services department as an Accounting Clerk.
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.
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 Events Manager, Simone is tasked with managing the IEI events that take place and assists with the scheduling of ongoing events. In addition to her work at the Institute, Simone is also a published poet and a semi-professional caterer. Simone received a B.A. in Leadership in the Public Sector from NC State University in May 2013 and her Masters of Arts in Public Policy and Public Administration in May 2016.
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.
James is the Technology Manager for the Institute for Emerging Issues. He provides insightful technology management as IEI’s goals expand. Specifically, he directs the organization to processes and procedures that yield maximum results in New Media technical strategies and processes, mobile application development, virtual engagement structures and solutions. He is also responsible for identifying all the new technology needed to support IEI’s outreach growth, and for finding multiple solutions to solve the varied programs of in-person and virtual event offerings.
James has over twenty-five years of experience working as a Senior Technical Project Manager. He successfully coordinated the management of key relationships with HP, IBM and Arrow representatives across their various organizations. He delivered strategic services planning and solutions and IT Operations and Technical Project Management. In addition, he translated technology and business requirements into actionable plans and implemented results to a wide customer and organizational base. He has supported Federal and Military product offerings with pre and post design work, while serving as the primary designer of an HP Tactical Server Suite for operations in the Middle East. James did his undergraduate work at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he earned a B.A. in Communications and a concentration in Broadcast Cinema.
Health Policy Manager
Sarah Langer Hall 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 United Way of North Carolina 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.
Coco Keevan works with the communications team and maintains IEI’s social media presence and website. Prior to joining IEI in November 2015, Coco worked as the philanthropy editor at Make It Better Magazine in Chicago. Her work has appeared in Atlanta Magazine, San Francisco Magazine, Paste and The A.V. Club. She studied magazine journalism at Northwestern University.
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.
Shaakira supports the policy team through research, memo writing and data collection to help gain perspective of the challenges facing NC in IEI’s four key policy areas. Shaakira is currently pursuing her Master of Public Administration at North Carolina State University and holds various roles. She is also the Outreach Chair for the Graduate Association of Public Administration chapter at NC State, a Development Intern at The V Foundation for Cancer Research, and a Graduate Assistant in Career Services at Saint Augustine’s University.
Prior to joining IEI in May 2016, Shaakira gained a diverse background as a student at UNC Charlotte where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. As a undergrad student she worked with organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte, Urban Youth Program, Children’s Defense Fund, Psychology Student Coalition, Sigma Alpha Lambda, and the National Society of Leadership and Success.
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 ten 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 has gained certification as a Microsoft Office Specialist and as a Certified Administrative Professional (CAP) and is currently pursuing her BA in Leadership in the Public Sector at North Carolina State University.
Emerging Leaders Fellow
As an Emerging Leaders Fellow, Maggie Woods is part of the policy team and contributes to the planning and implementation of IEI’s yearly program of work. Prior to joining IEI, Maggie was the Senior Program Coordinator for International Academic Programs at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, where she managed four programs in five countries.
Maggie has served many capacities in the non-profit and public policy sectors. She’s worked as a consultant on education access programming, was a policy intern at the International Labour Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, and served two years as an AmeriCorps VISTA where she developed college readiness programs. Maggie is the current co-leader of the Triangle AmeriCorps Alums chapter, and holds a Masters in Public Policy from Duke University, and a Bachelors of Arts in International Studies from California State University, Long Beach.