Leslie Boney leads the Institute’s efforts to identify key issues of importance to the state and develop consensus for action to address. Prior to joining the Institute, Leslie was Vice President for International, Community and Economic Engagement at the UNC system office, coordinating efforts to extend university expertise and services throughout the state.
While serving in the NC Department of Commerce and Governor’s Office, Leslie coordinated the state’s efforts to redesign rural development policy, increase volunteerism, and reform welfare. At the nonprofit MDC, he managed a two-state effort to help rural communities recover from manufacturing job loss. A former teacher and reporter, Leslie serves on the boards of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina and the Rural Economic Development Center. He received a B.A. from Amherst College.
Administrative Support Specialist
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.
Rural Faith Community Development Intern
Ellen Beasley is the Rural Faith Community Development Intern, assisting with research for rural churches seeking ways to be involved in community development. Rooted in her experience and work with the United Methodist Church, her rural North Carolina roots, and her studies in extension and leadership, Ellen brings a unique knowledge and passion for community development to the IEI team.
Ellen is a senior at NC State University, studying agricultural extension education, with minors in animal science, agribusiness management, and leadership in agriculture and life sciences.
Digital Communications Specialist
Kirsten Chang joined IEI in June 2019 as the Digital Communications Specialist, helping to tell stories of IEI’s impact in the state. She has a background in storytelling that includes writing and editing for radio, magazines, and children’s books. In 2017-18, she completed a service year with the Johnson Service Corps, assisting at a senior community center in Orange County. Kirsten received her undergraduate degree in English from UNC-Chapel Hill. She is originally from western North Carolina.
Coordinator, Public Programs and Commons
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 Master 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.
Rural Faith Communities Program Manager
Kylie Foley joined IEI in April 2016 as the Rural Faith Communities Fellow. In a joint partnership with IEI, The Duke Divinity School, and The Duke Endowment, the Thriving Rural Communities program allows rural faith leaders to use IEI’s resources to benefit their community. Rural churches and places of worship are often anchor institutions that have the credibility and resources to partner with private, public and nonprofit partners to address civic needs in the community. Kylie works directly with faith leaders (clergy and lay) on their community development plans and provides resources according to their needs.
Kylie received her undergraduate degree in international affairs and geography from Florida State University. She has previously worked with the Florida United Methodist Conference as well as UMVIM, SEJ, the short-term missions arm of the United Methodist Church.
Greg Hedgepeth is IEI‘s Communications Director, joining the Institute in September 2018 after serving as the chief communications officer/ director of marketing, communications and technology for the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at Florida Atlantic University. Greg has served in the field of higher education and marketing communications over 10 years, holding a number of leadership roles. Hedgepeth is an eastern North Carolina native and a graduate of East Carolina University. He also holds a master’s degree in management and leadership from Webster University.
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.
Sarah Langer Hall
Senior Policy and Program Manager
Sarah Langer Hall is the Senior Policy and Program Manager and works collaboratively with individuals from all sectors and areas of North Carolina to build capacity for collective action on issues facing the state’s long-term competitiveness. 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. She is a graduate of Leadership North Carolina and has been recognized by the Triangle Business Journal with the 40 Under 40 award.
Policy and Program Manager
Alicia James joined IEI in 2018 as a policy and program manager. The Maryland native and UNC-Chapel Hill graduate brings a decade-plus experience in state and local government budget analyst positions to IEI, where she works across the spectrum of the Institute’s programs.
Whether she’s working to increase civic engagement, or reconnect North Carolina’s rural and urban communities, James brings a passion of place and narrative to her work that she first gained as an undergraduate English major at UNC-Chapel Hill, where she also received a master’s degree in public administration.
Service Year NC Director
Darryl Lester joined IEI in July as the Institute‘s new Service Year Director. Lester has had a lengthy career in the university, service and philanthropy fields. He calls his new position at the Institute for Emerging Issues, the culmination of his career, which has included forays into university counseling, nonprofit consulting and banking industries. Darryl is a graduate of both Wofford College (B.A., Economics) and North Carolina State University (M.Ed. in Counselor Education and minor in Psychology).