Tar Heel Bus Tour highlights School of Government collaborations statewide

A blue tour bus drives across a concrete racetrack. A barrier in the background reads "North Wilkesboro Speedway."

The Tar Heel Bus Tour has always had deep ties to the UNC School of Government.

The tour launched in 1997 after it was conceptualized by the Public Service Roundtable, then co-chaired by Dean Mike Smith and Carolina Law Dean Judith Wegner. Its aim: to better connect faculty and administrators to North Carolinians and give them opportunities to get to know the state—and each other.

Faculty member Anita Brown-Graham joined the first tour and recalled to UNC’s The Well how it dispelled some participants preconceived notions of North Carolina: “They had come to UNC from different places, and their perception of the state, rooted in their experience on campus and in Chapel Hill, could not have been more different from the places we visited.”

The tour made its return this year following a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19. As in previous years, School faculty and administrators played a prominent role in the event. Smith and Brown-Graham served as planners and organizers behind the scenes in the lead-up to the event, while Senior Associate Dean Aimee Wall and faculty members Jacquelyn Greene and Teshanee Williams joined in as participants.

Read on to learn more about projects and other stories the School of Government contributed to this year’s tour.

The SUN Project (Concord Opioid Response Project)

This cross-sector collaborative system of care in Cabarrus County coordinates compassionate, non-stigmatizing prenatal care, behavioral health, and social support services for pregnant patients with substance use disorders. This inter-agency coordination contributes to the health, safety, well-being, and recovery of pregnant patients, their infants, and families while decreasing duplication of work. This project facilitates collaboration at no cost to the patient.

Faculty members Mark Botts, Kristi Nickodem, and Williams have been instrumental in supporting The SUN Project’s work. Botts and Nickodem have provided critical legal consultation to the project as it navigates the complex infrastructure of legislation, regulation, and confidentiality law surrounding this collaborative effort. Williams worked with MPA student Claire Kerns to conduct a study determining the efficacy of the collaborative model and presented a written report on the effort to participating agencies. The SUN Project grew out of a member team from the ncIMPACT Initiative’s Opioid Response Project.

The tour visited the SUN Clinic on Friday, October 21 to learn about the project’s successes, barriers, solutions, and future goals from the partners and community members, including Botts and Williams.

Carolina Across 100

The Tar Heel Bus Tour highlighted several projects connected to Carolina Across 100, a pan-university initiative led by Brown-Graham and supported by ncIMPACT. Carolina Across 100 is currently facilitating the “Our State, Our Work” program. This effort equips 13 community collaboratives to serve as statewide leaders in implementing positive strategies to significantly expand and deepen education and employment pathways for opportunity youth—young adults aged 16–24 who are not in school or working.



A stop in Alamance County included a visit to Fairystone Fabrics, a partner to Carolina Across 100 collaborative “Opportunity Alamance.” This company provides apprenticeships to young adults to learn on the job, get paid, and pursue a post-secondary degree—all at the same time. To the east, tour participants visited the Workforce Education and Vitality Center in Bertie County, a hub for activities and services designed to meet the health and social needs of community members and provide access to workforce readiness skills. The Rivers East Workforce Development Board is a key partner in these efforts. The board represents Bertie County in the “Rivers East Alliance,” a five-county Carolina Across 100 team.

North Wilkesboro Speedway



Organized by Smith and the School, this visit introduced tour participants to a bit of North Carolina lore and a community-driven effort to bring it back to life. A dedicated group of racing enthusiasts, community members, and government officials is reviving the North Wilkesboro Speedway and hopes it will serve as a business engine for Wilkes County.

This visit explained the history of the raceway, which sits at the nexus of state culture, economic development, and history. A representative from Speedway Motorsports, local entrepreneurs, and a journalist shared more about the track, the community’s colorful story, and how it intersects with farming and moonshine.

Learn more: “A night when anything was possible” by Jeremy Markovich.