Inaugural Cohort of ElevateNC: Higher Education Program Announced by The Hunt Institute

September 25, 2020

Cary, NC. – The Hunt Institute is pleased to announce the members of its inaugural cohort of the ElevateNC: Higher Education program. Designed to enhance leadership capacity as well as provide a forum for the development of statewide and community-specific strategies that increase postsecondary attainment, The Institute has gathered prominent leaders from a variety of sectors including state policymakers, K-12 superintendents and teachers, higher education administrators and faculty, members of the business community, advocacy organizations, and local government representatives.

The Hunt Institute will administer the ElevateNC: Higher Education program in partnership with myFutureNC, who will provide expertise on how cohort members can drive progress toward the statewide postsecondary attainment goal: to have two million North Carolinians achieve a credential or degree in postsecondary by 2030. In order to drive progress toward the goal, policymakers and stakeholders must work to overcome significant barriers – sizeable achievement and attainment gaps persist; higher education funding and revenue sources are at risk of even greater declines as states seek to recover from the lingering effects of the Great Recession, which are now being compounded by COVID-19; and many nontraditional students, such as adult learners, must be engaged.

“Postsecondary attainment is a critical step for better paying career opportunities, but a degree or certificate alone is just the first step,” said Dr. Javaid Siddiqi, President & CEO of The Hunt Institute. “Schools, businesses, government, and other community-based partners need to think creatively to develop solutions that provide those opportunities for all students. Doing so is good for North Carolinians, and good for the economy. This program is an important aspect of The Hunt Institute’s strategy of supporting the #2millionby2030 goal.”

Over a period of eight months beginning in October, participants will meet for four sessions – the meetings will be held virtually as appropriate, and one session will be jointly held with a similar program in Tennessee. Sessions will take place over two days and cover different topics and policy issues as well as offer ways for leaders to move from learning to implementing in their home communities. During each meeting, participants will hear from leading practitioners, students, elected officials, and state and national resource experts.

“We need strong leaders who truly understand the higher education landscape and what’s at stake if we are to succeed in reaching our #2millionby2030 goal,” said Cecilia Holden, President & CEO of myFutureNC. “We look forward to working with this first cohort and helping them become even more active champions of raising attainment in their communities.”

The 2020 ElevateNC: Higher Education inaugural cohort is:

  • Tawannah Allen, Associate Professor, High Point University
  • Kevin Austin, President, North Carolina Association of County Commissioners
  • Senator Deanna Ballard, State Senator, North Carolina General Assembly
  • Sarah Bolton, Policy Director, Office of North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper
  • Valerie Bridges, Superintendent, Edgecombe County Public Schools
  • Jason Caldwell, Adjunct Professor, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
  • Sharon Contreras, Superintendent, Guilford County Schools
  • Eric Davis, Chairman, North Carolina State Board of Education
  • Algie Gatewood, President, Alamance Community College
  • Joe Gonzalez, Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs, Duke University
  • Rocio Gonzalez, Executive Director, Latin American Chamber of Commerce – Charlotte
  • Freda Hicks, School Partnership & Induction Counselor, North Carolina Central University
  • Kevin Howell, Vice Chancellor for External Affairs, Partnerships, and Economic Development, North Carolina State University
  • Representative Rachel Hunt, State Representative, North Carolina General Assembly
  • Representative Pat Hurley, State Representative, North Carolina General Assembly
  • David Jackson, President and CEO, Boone Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Chuck Kaylor, Chief of Staff, John M. Belk Endowment
  • Andrew Kelly, Senior Vice President for Strategy and Policy, the University of North Carolina System
  • Mariah Morris, 2019 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Teacher of the Year
  • David Mounts, Chairman and CEO, Inmar Intelligence
  • Tony Murphy, Director of Veterans Programs, Fayetteville Technical Community College
  • Nathan Ramsey, Interim Executive Director, Land-of-Sky Regional Council
  • Mebane Rash, CEO and Editor-in-Chief, EducationNC
  • Representative Robert Reives, State Representative, North Carolina General Assembly
  • Jenna Robinson, President, The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal
  • Bill Saffo, Mayor, City of Wilmington
  • Carol S. Spalding, President, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College
  • Robert Taylor, Superintendent, Bladen County Schools
  • Kristi Walters, Program Officer, The Duke Endowment


About The Hunt Institute

An affiliate of the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy, The Hunt Institute 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:

About myFutureNC 

myFutureNC is a nonprofit organization with a statewide goal to increase educational attainment in North Carolina. It is the only organization in the state focused across the entire education to workforce continuum – from early childhood to the labor market. The organization’s Board of Directors includes some of North Carolina’s most influential education, business and civic leaders, using their talents toward a goal that will provide opportunities for all. To ensure North Carolina remains economically competitive, the General Assembly codified the state’s educational attainment goal of 2 million by 2030 in House Bill 664 with bipartisan support and a signature from the Governor.  Join our efforts and help champion success for North Carolina and all of its people. Visit

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