Division of Strategy and Policy

The Division of Strategy and Policy enhances and furthers the UNC System’s strategic goals. To this end, Strategy and Policy has developed a robust performance measurement system to track progress toward System goals and proactively identifies new initiatives that will help advance those goals.

The division leads several projects and programs, including:

Implementation of 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

Literacy Framework Development Initiative

UNC Laboratory Schools

GEAR UP North Carolina

The 2018 Survey of UNC System Alumni


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. In addition to leading the division, Dr. Kelly serves as a higher-education policy expert to the president and the Board of Governors.

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. He 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
Senior Associate Vice President for P20 Policy & Programs | 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.

Samantha Carney, Ph.D
Senior Associate Vice President for Strategy & Policy | 919-962-2228

Dr. Samantha Carney serves the Strategy and Policy Division, researching key higher education issues to advance the system’s strategic goals. Prior to joining UNC, Dr. Carney was an assistant vice president and assistant vice provost at the University of Chicago, providing support to and oversight of institutional initiatives in online and continuing education, entrepreneurship and innovation, and executive searches in divisions across the university. She also served as a program officer at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge, Massachusetts. While at the American Academy, Carney managed the Lincoln Project: Excellence and Access in Public Higher Education, a $2.1 million initiative designed to increase public and private support for America’s public research universities. She also has several years of experience working in local and national program evaluation, institutional research, and college admissions. Dr. Carney received her bachelor of arts in history at Bryn Mawr College, her masters in higher education from the University of Michigan, and her doctorate in higher education from Boston College.

Laura Bilbro-Berry, Ed.D
Executive Director of Educator Preparation & Lab Schools | 919-962-4934

Dr. Laura Bilbro-Berry leads and supports the UNC System’s Educator Preparation Programs and network of Laboratory Schools.

Prior to joining the UNC System Office, Bilbro-Berry engaged in a variety of roles within the field of education serving as a teacher, school improvement coordinator, curriculum specialist, and director of federal programs. She worked for 12 years at East Carolina University in pre-service teacher recruitment and administrative positions within the College of Education’s Office of Educator Preparation to include being the Director of Partnerships and Enrollment Management that involved administration of a partnership between the university and community colleges. Bilbro-Berry was also instrumental in the launching of the ECU Community School. She served as Director of Community College Partnerships at the UNC System Office prior to joining the Strategy and Policy Division.

Bilbro-Berry received her bachelor of arts in elementary education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she was a North Carolina Teaching Fellow. She earned her master of adult education and doctorate of educational administration from East Carolina University. Bilbro-Berry served as the 2000-2001 North Carolina Teacher of the Year, and for her service within public education, has twice been the recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest civilian honor in North Carolina.

Mark Umbrich, Ph.D.
Director of Data Analysis and Research | 919-962-6082

Dr. Mark Umbricht leads data analysis and research efforts for the division, providing data-driven decision support to the senior vice president for Strategy and Policy and overseeing updates to the UNC System Strategic Plan.

Prior to joining the UNC System Office, Umbricht was the senior project manager and data scientist for the University of Michigan Institutional Learning Analytics Committee, conducting high level data and policy analyses for the university, collaborating on evaluation and data projects across campus, and serving as a member of the study team for the College and Beyond II Study.

Dr. Umbricht received his bachelor of science in psychology from Eastern Illinois University, earning an associate of science degree from Harper College along the way. He holds a master of science in educational organization and leadership degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Ph.D. in higher education with a minor in statistics from the Pennsylvania State University.

Caleb P. Rose, Ph.D
Senior Research Analyst | 919-843-9587

Dr. Caleb P. Rose serves as the senior research analyst for the Strategy and Policy Division providing data analysis and research for the division.

Prior to joining the UNC System, Rose was the senior researcher for institutional effectiveness at Frederick Community College, providing research, data analysis, and non-curricular program evaluations at the institution. He also served as a statistician with the Virginia Department of Education, where he provided research, data analysis, and technical support for the State Superintendent’s Office. He served as a research associate with the Institute of Government at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where he worked alongside local non-profit organizations, providing research and technical support. While completing his doctoral studies, he served as a research associate at the Office for Education Policy in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas. In this role, Rose was part of a team providing research, data analysis, and technical support to schools, districts, and legislators on key k-12 education policy initiatives across the state.

Rose received a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from East Carolina University. He earned his master of arts degree in clinical psychology from Marshall University, He holds his Ph.D in public policy with a concentration in k-12 education policy from the University of Arkansas, where he also completed two certificate programs in education policy studies, and preparing for the professoriate.

Tonya Walton, M.P.A.
Access and Success Initiatives Manager | 919-962-5217

Tonya Walton serves as the access and success initiatives manager in the division. She helps implement grant-funded initiatives that support the UNC System’s Strategic Plan, including the 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 in higher education and nonprofit organizations.

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.

Mary Gaegler, M.P.P.
Data and Policy Analyst | 919-843-5008

Mary Gaegler serves as a data and policy analyst for the Strategy and Policy Division. Prior to joining the UNC System Office, Mary worked as a research assistant at the Tennessee Board of Regents. Additionally, she taught fifth grade math and science for several years in North Carolina. Mary holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from UNC Chapel Hill and a master’s degree in Education Policy from Vanderbilt University.

Thomas McBrayer, M.P.A.
Executive Assistant to Dr. Andrew Kelly | 919-962-6082

Thomas McBrayer joined the System Office after serving with the federal government, having worked in a Congressional district office for 6 years. Thomas holds a master’s degree in Public Administration as well as a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Appalachian State University. As an executive assistant in Strategy and Policy, Thomas helps with administrative office needs in addition to coordinating projects and events for Dr. Kelly and the entire Strategy & Policy Division.

PreK-12 Strategy and Policy

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

Sara Ulm serves as the director of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program and Teacher Recruitment Initiatives for the P12 Division at the UNC System Office. In her role, Ulm manages the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program, a forgivable loans for service program that recruits high-achieving candidates into STEM and special education teaching areas, along with a variety of other teacher recruitment initiatives.

Prior to joining the System Office, Ulm worked as the senior education policy advisor for the North Carolina Senate.

Monique Keyes
Assistant Director of Teacher Recruitment

Monique Keyes has a background in the legal field, serving as a family law paralegal in the Triangle Area for three years. Ms. Keyes holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Hampton University and a paralegal certificate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Paralegal Certificate Program. 

Eddie Price, Ed.D
Director of NC Principal Fellows Program

A native of NC, Dr. Price has been an educator in North Carolina’s public schools for twenty-seven years. He served as an English and history teacher, has coached track and football, served as a public school administrator for thirteen years at both middle and high school levels, served as an area superintendent, a chief academic office, and the deputy superintendent of Johnston County Public Schools. He earned his BA from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and his M.S.A. and Ed.D. from North Carolina State University.

Tony Stewart, Ed.D.
Coordinator of NC Principal Fellows and Transforming Principal Preparation

Dr. Tony Stewart serves as Coordinator of NC Principal Fellows and Transforming Principal Preparation where he supports aspiring school leaders in their efforts to become highly effective assistant principals and principals. Prior to joining the UNC System Office, Stewart worked in South Florida as the principal of Cypress PreK-8 School, a Title I school whose academic achievement improved two letter grades during his tenure. He began his career in education as a high school science teacher and later moved into school leadership, serving as assistant principal of the school’s first Freshman Academy. He then transitioned to Central Services as Executive Director of Professional Learning. In this position, he provided support to the district’s new and veteran assistant principals including the development of their first AP Mentoring Program.

Stewart graduated from East Carolina University as a N.C. Teaching Fellow with a Bachelor of Science in Science Education. He earned his Master of School Administration from North Carolina State University and his Doctor of Educational Leadership from Gardner-Webb University.


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 provides professional development to school leadership, emphasizing the importance of data-driven decision making when developing programs to address student need.

Nikki A. Liles, M.P.A.
Director, GEAR UP  | 919-445-0492

Nikki serves as the Director of GEAR UP at the UNC System Office where she provides leadership in administering the grant program and increasing access to postsecondary education. A native of North Carolina, Nikki earned a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Nikki has worked with the GEAR UP program in different roles for over six years. During that time, she earned a Master of Public Administration from North Carolina Central University. Prior to working with the UNC System, Nikki was the Operations Manager of Crayons2Calculators, a non-profit organization that serves the educational and creative needs of Durham Public Schools students. An advocate for the underserved who embodies her alma mater’s motto of truth and service, she actively seeks out opportunities to support her community.

Patti B. Harris, M.Ed.
Access and Success Manager

Patti is the College Access and Success Manager where she facilitates GEAR UP NC’s uCoach partnership with eight community colleges and four-year public institutions. Additionally, she develops and oversees statewide programming and outreach initiatives, building and sustaining relationships with businesses, community partners and parents to leverage local support for GEAR UP related activities. Prior to working with GEAR UP, she served as director of the NC State College Advising Corps, a college-access non-profit whose mission is to increase the number of first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students who enter and complete higher education. Patti earned her Master of Education in Higher Education Administration from North Carolina State University and her bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Currently, Patti is working on her PhD in Higher Education from North Carolina State University. As a first-generation college student, and North Carolina native, Patti serves to ensure all students have access to earn a post-secondary credential.

Miodrag Stojnic, Ph.D.
Research and Evaluation Specialist | 919-962-8366

Miodrag is the Research and Evaluation Specialist with GEAR UP NC. His main tasks include survey development, data management, and data analysis with the purpose of evaluating the impact of GEAR UP NC’s efforts on students’ educational outcomes. He received his PhD in Sociology from New York University and was post-doctoral researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Estefane Santiago-Lopez
Program Specialist | 919-843-5845

As Program Specialist, Estefane manages various administrative tasks and supports GEAR UP programming, outreach, and evaluation efforts. Prior to her role with GEAR UP, Estefane served as a College Adviser for two high schools in Davidson County, North Carolina as part of the Carolina College Advising Corps. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Peace, War and Defense from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Estefane identifies as a multilingual indigenous woman from a low-income, single-mother household and a first-generation college student. Her identity and previous experience fuel her passion for increasing college access for underserved communities. She believes that obtaining a higher education is fundamental to closing the opportunity gap in North Carolina.