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Policy Innovation Leaders of Tomorrow 2021

About the Program

The North Carolina Policy Innovation Leaders of Tomorrow 2021 (PILOT 21) initiative was a multi-campus program to provide undergraduates at nine universities (Duke, NC A&T, NCCU, NC State, UNCA, UNC-CH, Wake Forest, Shaw and UNCW) a chance to identify critical issues facing the state and to learn how to work productively toward change. Through the initiative, these undergraduates gained experience framing an issue, applying data to policy analysis and working with other undergraduates across the ideological spectrum to achieve consensus. They used a variety of strategies to bring recommendations to the attention of state and local government elected officials and other policymakers.

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This project was made possible through the generous support of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

The project was supported by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation on behalf of retiring board of trustees member, Jane Patterson, who participated in a similar project in the 1960’s when she was an undergraduate at UNC-CH. Being part of the effort captivated her interest and launched her into a career of public service.

The Institute for Emerging Issues led this initiative, in partnership with Carolina Demography at the Carolina Population Center. Each participating campus had a team of up to eight students led by a single student who served as “student lead,” a faculty member who advised the team and the initiative as a whole, serving as “faculty lead,” and a dean-level/department chair-level member who served on a multi-campus “Dean/Chair Council.”

Being a part of the PILOT 21 program gave me the opportunity to work with a lot of different students with a lot of different perspectives, to come together and cultivate a broad strategy to address food insecurity on our campuses and in our communities.

Ron Dumas

Ron Dumas

UNC Asheville


  • March 2021: Students met virtually for a presentation by Carolina Demography on initial broad policy ideas and decided to focus on the policy issue of food insecurity for work moving forward.
  • November 2021: Student teams met at NC State’s Hunt Library to hear from speakers, determine final recommendations and develop strategies for moving ideas forward.
  • November 2021 – February 2022: Student teams executed strategies to move ideas forward through writing, conversations, testimony and other means.

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