Fellows Program
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This program provides an invaluable chance for students to learn from some of the most notable political practitioners, academics, and journalists in an informal setting.

Political practitioners immerse themselves in the Carolina community, drawing on the University’s intellectual resources while interacting with students and leading a not-for-credit study group.

The Institute is hosting two Visiting Fellows – Mayor Bill Bell and Secretary Phil Kirk – for the Fall 2019 semester.

Mayor Bill Bell’s Syllabus

Secretary Phil Kirk’s Syllabus

With questions about the Program or to schedule an office hours appointment with the Fellows, please contact fellows@unciop.org.


Fellows independently lead non-credit seminars on timely and relevant issues of national import. These weekly 75-minute discussions, on mutually agreed upon topics, take place on campus and are open to all UNC students. Seminars are built to best leverage the expertise of Fellows and vary from lectures and informal discussion groups to panel discussions and guest lectures.

Fellows Ambassadors

Each Fellow will be assigned a team of student ambassadors. Through the IOP’s Fellows Ambassador program, students apply to serve as assistants to Fellows, organizing and promoting their seminars and events; helping prepare research for seminars; being a liaison between Fellows and the University community; and helping to orient them to UNC’s campus, the Chapel Hill community, and the Triangle region more broadly. Fellows Ambassadors will be introduced to Fellows upon arrival on campus.

About Mayor Bill Bell

Stepping into Durham politics 47 years ago, William V. “Bill” Bell wanted to maximize Durham’s economy, education and other resources, believing that government best serves citizens by partnering with the private sector and the public.

Bell served as an elected Durham County Commissioner for 26 years (1972–1994 and 1996–2000) and Chairman of the Durham Board of County Commissioners for 12 years (1982 - 1994). As Chairman of the Durham County Board of Commissioners he was recognized as the architect of the 1992 merger of the Durham City Schools System and the Durham County School System into the Durham Public School System.

He was elected Mayor of Durham, NC in 2001 and served continuously until December 2017, choosing not to seek re-election, having served the longest tenure as Mayor in Durham’s history. He is a past Chairman of the NC Metropolitan Mayors Coalition, and has served as a member of the US Conference of Mayors, the African American Mayors Association, Inc. He has twice been awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, by Governors Jim Martin and Pat McCrory, for his service as Mayor.

Born in Washington, DC, Bell attended the public schools in Winston-Salem, NC graduating from Atkins High School in 1957 prior to integration. He received his B.S./Electrical Engineering from Howard University in 1961 and his M.S./Electrical Engineering from New York University in 1968. He served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps as a 1st Lieutenant from 1961 to 1963 before a career in engineering, retiring from IBM in 1996.

He is presently the Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer of UDI Community Development Corporation, a 501(c3) non-profit corporation in Durham. He also service on the board of the North Carolina Railroad Company and on the North Carolina Central University Board of Trustees. He is married to Judith Chatters Bell and they are the parents of 4 children and grandparents of 6 grandchildren.

About Secretary Phillip J. Kirk

Phil Kirk has spent the last 50 years in education, politics, and business, as well as in the non-profit world. A native of Salisbury and a graduate of Catawba College, Kirk was elected to the State Senate at the age of 25 and at that time was the youngest in the state's history. In government, he has served in a number of capacities, including Chief of Staff for Governors Jim Holshouser and Jim Martin and U. S. Senator Jim Broyhill. He was Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services twice and also served as the Chair of the State Board of Education and as the Vice-Chair of the State Board of Community Colleges.

He has served on more than 150 boards, commissions, and task forces, primarily in education, travel and tourism, and economic development. In 2000 he chaired the Higher Education Bond campaign which provided more than $500 million for capital improvements at UNC Chapel Hill. He was also a member of the UNC Tomorrow Commission and the UNC TV Board of Trustees.

He has also worked as a middle and high school English and journalism teacher, a newspaper reporter, radio announcer, in energy services, and in higher education administration. He now serves as the President of the Kiwanis Club of Raleigh and as a member of the Meredith College Board of Trustees, and on the boards of the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching Foundation and Participate Learning (formerly VIF International). At Ridge Road Baptist Church in Raleigh, he is a deacon, Sunday School teacher, and President of the Seekers Class. He also serves as senior advisor for community relations for North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities.

For his service to the State he has received the North Carolina Award for Public Service and was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine from three different Governors. He is most proud of his four daughters and nine grandchildren and his reputation for being able to work with people from across the political spectrum. Governor Jim Hunt, a Democrat, said of Kirk, a Republican, "If there is a person who is more involved in the issues, I don't know who it is.”