PILOT 21: A 9-campus project to encourage undergraduate student participation in public policy


A 9-campus project to encourage undergraduate student participation in public policy

The North Carolina Policy Innovation Leaders of Tomorrow 2021 (PILOT 21) initiative is 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 will gain experience framing an issue, applying data to policy analysis and working with other undergraduates across the ideological spectrum to achieve consensus. They will use a variety of strategies to bring recommendations to the attention of state and local government elected officials and other policymakers. 

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

Students will meet virtually in March for a data presentation by Carolina Demography on initial broad policy ideas. They will then select one broad policy focus for work moving forward. In November, the student teams will meet at NC State’s Hunt Library to hear from speakers, determine final recommendations and develop strategies for moving ideas forward. Between November 2021 and February 2022, the student teams will execute strategies to move ideas forward through writing, conversations, testimony and other means. Each participating student meets with a local or state-serving policymaker to learn more about the topic and ask questions. IEI provides capacity building and connections, helping students develop a peer network of colleagues they can draw on as they begin their professional or volunteer work following graduation. 

The project is 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.