May 13, 2021
By Dr. Javaid Siddiqi, President & CEO of The Hunt Institute
2021 marks 20 years for The Hunt Institute. I could not be more privileged to be leading the organization at this milestone moment, and I hope you will indulge us as we spend the next 20 weeks celebrating accomplishments big and small.
When Governor Jim Hunt left office in 2001 after his fourth term as Governor of North Carolina, he knew his time as a bipartisan leader in education policy wasn’t over. He had seen up close just how much good could be done when policymakers, and specifically governors, were informed on critical issues in education, and wanted to provide a mechanism to allow for the flow of information to drive action. And so, The James B. Hunt, Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy, or The Hunt Institute as it is now known, was born.
The early years of The Institute were spent deepening relationships with governors, former governors, and primarily North Carolina policymakers on issues in K-12 education. As time went on, Governor Hunt recognized there was a need to work with up-and-coming elected officials earlier in their careers and before they ran for governor, so they could be sure to incorporate education as a foundation in their agendas. This idea was the catalyst for the Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows program. In 2014 I was lucky enough to be selected to oversee the development and recruitment for the HK Fellows program. It has been an honor and privilege to watch that program grow and thrive, having recruited seven cohorts and currently recruiting for the eighth, with 141 HK Fellows from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, six sitting governors, one sitting senator, four current gubernatorial candidates, one senate candidate, and one congressional candidate. With these statistics, the model is clearly working.
In 2016, when The Hunt Institute’s founding Executive Director, Dr. Judith Rizzo, decided to retire I was humbled to have been afforded the opportunity to step in and lead the organization into the next phase of our work. Since that time, we have strategically expanded our work to include the entire education continuum – from birth through postsecondary and the workforce.
The Hunt Institute continues to experience explosive growth despite a global pandemic. In the last six months alone, The Institute has added 15 members to its team, almost doubling in size. Our newly developed three-year strategic plan puts us on a path to continue that growth, as equity remains at the forefront of all that we do. If the pandemic has exposed anything in our education system, it’s just how much inequity exists. We have our work cut out for us and I am excited by the team we have in place to lead us forward.
As we look back at all The Hunt Institute has accomplished in its first 20 years, it is exhilarating to think about what its next 20 years may hold. I hope you will follow along throughout our campaign as we celebrate the past, present, and future of The Institute.