The Hunt Institute Announces Third Cohort of the Hunt State Policy Fellows Program

Innovative Program Develops Education Expertise of Local Policymakers

[This release is from the Hunt Institute.]

The Hunt Institute is pleased to announce the members of its third cohort of the Hunt State Policy Fellows program. The program aims to provide a bipartisan group of future education policymakers and aspiring state and local elected officials in North Carolina with the resources, space, and expertise needed to develop thoughtful positions on a variety of education policy issues. To do so, The Institute has gathered leaders from across the state including county commissioners, school board members, mayors, city councilors, and other community leaders.

“The Hunt State Policy Fellows program provides local policymakers and community leaders with an introduction to current policy challenges and opportunities across the education continuum,” said Dr. Javaid Siddiqi, CEO & President of The Hunt Institute. “I’m looking forward to meeting our newest cohort and am excited to follow their journeys as policymakers in the years to come.”
From May through September, participants will meet for three sessions, with each focusing on a different piece of the education pipeline – early childhood, K-12 and higher education. Each meeting will take place over two days and offer Fellows the opportunity to learn, engage in constructive dialogue, and build relationships with one another and with policy experts across the state. In so doing, Fellows will grow their capacity to advocate for North Carolina’s students.

“As with every Hunt State Policy Fellows cohort, I am excited to see such a passionate group of local leaders ready to dig into education policy and look forward to seeing how this program influences their work throughout their careers,” said Interim Board Chair Dr. Sam Houston. “This program is a natural extension of the work The Hunt Institute does with senior state officials nationwide and serves to develop education-minded policymakers in our state.”

The 2023 Hunt State Policy Fellows cohort is:

  • Nida Allam, County Commissioner, Durham County
  • Kevin Austin, Board of Commissioners Chair, Yadkin County
  • Mario Benavente, City Councilmember, Fayetteville
  • Chris Blue, Interim Town Manager, Chapel Hill
  • Tina M. Brown, Mayor, Town of Robersonville
  • Matt Calabria, Wake County Commissioner, Fuquay-Varina
  • Olivia Dawson, Mayor, Town of Burgaw
  • Jennifer De La Jara, Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board Member, Charlotte
  • Sandy Ellington-Graves, Alamance-Burlington School Board Chair, Graham
  • Kimberly Hardy, Second Vice Chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, Linden
  • Cyril Jefferson, City Councilmember, High Point
  • Adrienne Martinez, Senior Vice President, Bank of America, Charlotte
  • Lisa Meier, CEO & Managing Partner, Symphonic Leadership Partners, LLC, Mooresville
  • Jeffrey Odham, Mayor, City of New Bern
  • Jose Oliva, Guilford County Schools Chief of Staff, Greensboro
  • April Parker, Statewide Executive Director, North Carolina Federation of Young Republicans, Raleigh
  • Susie Sewell, Executive Director, Camp Schreiber Foundation, Wilmington
  • Lyndsey Simpson, Mayor Pro Tempore, City of Hendersonville
  • Jennifer M. Stepp, City Councilmember, Gastonia
  • Tyler Swanson, Wake County School Board Member, Cary
  • Jennifer Thompson, Cherokee Central Schools Board Chair, Cherokee
  • Luke Waddell, City Councilmember, Wilmington

About The Hunt Institute
The Hunt Institute, an affiliate of the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy, is a recognized leader in the movement to transform public education. Marshaling expertise from a nationwide partner network since its establishment in 2001, The Institute brings together people and resources that help build and nurture visionary leadership and mobilize strategic action for greater educational outcomes and student success. For more information, please visit:

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