About the Program

The North Carolina Policy Innovation Leaders of Tomorrow 2021 (PILOT 21) initiative is a multi-campus program to provide undergraduates at North Carolina universities (Duke, NC A&T, 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 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.

The Institute for Emerging Issues will lead this initiative, in partnership with Carolina Demography at the Carolina Population Center. 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.”

“This is a great opportunity for students to get hands-on experience learning about how public policy works, how to negotiate to develop consensus, and how to move ideas forward,” said IEI Director Leslie Boney. “And we hope it also gets some of the students excited about a future career in public policy.”



  • 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 will meet 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 will execute strategies to move ideas forward through writing, conversations, testimony and other means.


Meet the Students

Meet the student team leads from the universities participating in PILOT 21.

Hannah Braun, NC State University
Kaela Colyar, Wake Forest University
Aden Klein, Duke University
Ron Dumas



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