Division of Strategy and Policy 

The Division of Strategy and Policy is charged with enhancing and furthering the UNC System’s strategic goals and developing a robust performance measurement system and proactively identifying new initiatives to promote system goals.  

Projects and programs led by the Division include:

Higher Expectations: The Strategic Plan for the UNC System

Student Success Innovation Lab

The North Carolina Student Aid Study Group, a joint effort of the University of North Carolina and the North Carolina Community College Systems

UNC Laboratory Schools

GEAR UP North Carolina

Division of Strategy and Policy Staff


Andrew P. Kelly, Ph.D
Senior Vice President for Strategy and Policy | 919-962-6082

Dr. Andrew Kelly serves as the Senior Vice President for Strategy and Policy. Kelly leads the Division of Strategy and Policy which is charged with enhancing and furthering the UNC System’s strategic goals. In addition to serving as a higher-education policy expert to the President and the Board of Governors, he is tasked with developing a robust performance measurement system and proactively identifying new initiatives to promote system goals.  

Prior to joining the UNC System, Kelly was a resident scholar in education policy studies and the Founding Director of the Center on Higher Education Reform at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). In his roles, Dr. Kelly conducted research on college affordability innovation in higher education and federal and state policy and advised members of congress, state policy makers and presidential candidates. Kelly has published work in academic journals and in popular outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Education Week, The Atlantic, and National Review.

Dr. Kelly is a summa cum laude graduate of Dartmouth College, where he earned a degree in history.  He holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley.


Shun Robertson, Ph.D
Assistant Vice President for Policy Development and Analysis | 919-962-5663

Dr. Shun Robertson serves as a state policy expert for the Strategy and Policy Division, researching key higher education issues to advance the System’s strategic goals.

Prior to joining the UNC System, Robertson was a program director at MDC and Jobs for the Future, providing senior-level policy and research support to education and community-based projects. She also served as a policy analyst for the South Carolina Technical College System (SCTCS). In her role with SCTCS, Robertson provided ongoing analysis of education and economic trends affecting community colleges. She also has several years of experience working in admissions offices at colleges in Georgia and South Carolina.

Dr. Robertson received her bachelor of science in business administration and doctorate in educational administration from the University of South Carolina; and her master of business administration from Augusta State University. She earned a certificate in nonprofit administration from Duke University.


Tonya Walton
Access and Success Initiatives Manager | 919-962-5217

Ms. Tonya Walton serves as the Access and Success Initiatives Manager in the Division of Strategy and Policy. She aids in the implementation of grant-funded initiatives that support the UNC System’s strategic plan, including the new Student Success and Innovation Lab.

Walton has served in business operations and program administration roles within multiple sectors. Most recently, she fostered innovation efforts, including the creation of a citywide training academy for strategic planning and performance analytics, as a budget and management analyst with the City of Raleigh. In a similar role within Orange County Government (NC), she coordinated the grant administration and assessment process for over 40 nonprofit agencies. She has also held program administration roles with within higher education and nonprofits.

Walton received bachelor’s degrees in sociology and communication, from NC State University. She earned her master of public administration degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.



PreK-12 Strategy and Policy

Julie Kowal
Associate Vice President of P12 Strategy and Policy | 919-966-9523

Julie Kowal is Associate Vice President of P12 Strategy and Policy and head of the P12 Policy & Partnerships Division at the UNC System Office. She serves as a P12 policy expert to senior University leaders and the primary liaison to North Carolina’s public schools, and supports educator preparation programs across the system to strengthen the P12 educator pipeline.

Prior to joining UNC, Kowal served as Vice President of Policy and Research at BEST NC, a business-led education advocacy organization focused on improving teacher and principal quality in North Carolina public schools. In that role, she led the organization’s research agenda and championed the development of nation-leading approaches to teacher and principal preparation. Prior to BEST NC, Kowal worked nationally in education policy and management consulting, advising federal and state policymakers and non-profit leaders on P12 teacher and leader talent and school governance, and publishing more than a dozen nationally-distributed reports.

Ms. Kowal received her bachelor’s degree in literature and language from the University of North Carolina - Asheville and her law degree, with honors, from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.


Albert P. DuPont, Ed.D.
Director, UNC Laboratory Schools Project


Alexis Lockett, M.Ed.
NC Teaching Fellows and P-12 Program Specialist | 919-962-4575


Sara C. Ulm
Director of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program, Director of Teacher Recruitment | 919-843-0176


Tiffany Watts, Ph.D.
Director of Strategic Research Initiatives | 919-843-9587


Charisse Holloway
Administrative Assistant | 919-843-1253



Nikki A. Liles
Interim Director, GEAR UP           919-445-0492

GEAR UP stands for “Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs” and is a national college access initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The goal of this initiative is to significantly increase the number of students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. Over the past seven years, more than 22,000 students and their families in sixteen North Carolina school districts have been supported through academic support services, financial aid and career counseling, college tours, and mentoring services.  GEAR UP also provided professional development to school leadership, emphasizing the importance of data-driven decision making when developing programs to address student need.

Nikki Liles has worked with the GEAR UP grant in different capacities for over four years and currently serves as the Interim Director. She provides administrative leadership and supervision for the GEAR UP state grant, including management of program resources. Liles collaborates with educational consultants, evaluators, school leaders and other partners to implement GEAR UP district services. She also engages in statewide outreach and programming to increase access to and preparation for postsecondary education.

Betty (BP) Pearson, Administrative Assistant, blpearson@northcarolina.edu 919-843-6790

David Hunt, Accounting Technician, djhunt@northcarolina.edu 919-843-5845


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