Faculty Member Anita-Brown Graham Honored with 2021 Ned Brooks Award

School faculty member Anita Brown-Graham

The School of Government extends its congratulations to faculty member and ncIMPACT Initiative Director Anita Brown-Graham, who was honored by the Carolina Center for Public Service with receipt of the 2021 Ned Brooks Award for Public Service. This award, given at the UNC Public Service Awards virtual ceremony on Thursday, April 15, recognizes a UNC staff or faculty member who has made significant contributions to the University’s mission of service and engagement. The award honors the legacy and values of Ned Brooks—a 35-year public servant of UNC-Chapel Hill—and is regarded as the University’s lifetime achievement award for public service.

Brown-Graham was selected by the Center to receive the honor in celebration of her “distinguished and sustained record of service over the years to Carolina, the larger community, and the untold numbers of people” who have felt the positive impact of her work across the state. The organization cited her steadfast commitment to promoting civic engagement, which has spanned her career from professor to mentor to now-director, and her dedication to tackling complex public policy issues.

In her award acceptance remarks, Brown-Graham spoke of the privilege she feels in working alongside her colleagues to make a positive impact on the public service landscape of North Carolina.

“It is the honor of a lifetime to serve on the faculty of the School of Government,” Brown-Graham said. "I have the opportunity to wake up every morning knowing that I am working with a tiny but mighty team of people who over-deliver beyond their weight class every single day."

Brown-Graham first joined the then-Institute of Government in 1994 as a faculty member.  For 13 years, she served the state’s public officials on a range of governmental liability and community and economic development issues and became a nationally recognized authority on developing strategies to lead communities out of economic distress. As a long-serving professor of public law and government, Brown-Graham became the first the first African American faculty member to be tenured at the School.

After departing in 2007 to lead North Carolina State University’s Institute for Emerging Issues, she rejoined the School in 2016 to direct the ncIMPACT Initiative. In this role, Brown-Graham and her colleagues have devised programs to support public officials across the state working on complex public policy issues—ranging from economic mobility, poverty, the expansion of pre-kindergarten and the labor pool, opioid misuse and abuse, and more.

Beyond her work at the School, Brown-Graham was recently selected by UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz to lead Carolina Across 100, a five-year initiative to engage with communities throughout the state to make a meaningful impact in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. She has served as a University Day celebration speaker and hosted a route on the 2019 Tar Heel Bus Tour. Brown-Graham presently serves as co-chair of the newly formed UNC Rural initiative and is a faculty fellow with the UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies. Her passion for public service earned her the honor of being awarded the School’s Gladys Hall Coates Distinguished Professorship in 2020. This professorship recognizes excellence in service to the state and the School, including “quality, quantity, breadth, and depth of service rendered to the people of the State through the School as teacher, researcher, writer, and consultant.” 

"Anita is the personification of a high impact faculty member,” said Dean Michael Smith. “She is a master convener, facilitator, and interviewer. She truly is a leader within the University and across North Carolina.” 

In her receipt of this year’s award, its namesake Ned Brooks expressed pride in sharing his legacy of public service with Brown-Graham. He considered himself in excellent company.

“Lots of absolutely wonderful people have won the award over the years, and you're receiving it elevates it even more,” said Brooks.