Economic Mobility & Opportunity

The Urban Institute Research Faculty Fellows seek to better our region

A new program to fund and support faculty research into some of the most pressing issues facing Charlotte is getting underway this fall, with fellowships from the Urban Institute. Photo: Nancy Pierce.
Dr. Lori Thomas

A new program designed to identify solutions for some of the pressing needs and issues facing the greater Charlotte region is getting underway this fall at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute. For the first time, the Institute has named a cohort of Faculty Fellows to conduct research projects and work alongside local stakeholders to understand and share findings that can guide community decision-making.

Thanks to the Charlotte Opportunity Insights Partnership and funding from The Gambrell Foundation, the Faculty Fellows program will first focus on economic mobility. Seven research projects and twelve Opportunity Faculty Fellows have been selected as the inaugural cohort. They represent a range of disciplines from the Belk College of Business, the College of Arts and Architecture, the Cato College of Education, the College of Health and Human Services, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The Faculty Fellows program includes research and engagement components. First, competitive research funding ranging from $7,500-$15,000 per project will support short-term (up to 18 months) research that addresses important local issues. Second, Faculty Fellows and community stakeholders will participate in quarterly meetings through 2021 that highlight the research, deepen the capacity to build partnerships, and ensure the translation of research to the broader community. 

Faculty members often choose their vocation in order to contribute to the greater good. Whether their studies concern human cells or larger geographies, engaging in research that immediately or ultimately addresses human and community needs motivates long and focused careers. 

But despite a commitment to providing actionable and applicable information, faculty members encounter a number of challenges to sharing their research and engaging with their local communities. The traditional “three-legged stool” of the academy (research, teaching, service) often leaves few hours to build and sustain relationships with community partners - ties that may take years to grow.

The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute Research Faculty Fellows program recognizes the challenges our faculty face, as well as our local community’s need for timely and relevant evidence to inform decision-making. That’s why the program will seek to connect the research of UNC Charlotte faculty members to community stakeholders that can use it to inform their work and contribute to the wellbeing of the greater Charlotte area.

The purpose of the Faculty Fellows program is threefold: 1) To link the research expertise of faculty to stakeholders addressing the needs and pressing issues of the Charlotte region; 2) To build faculty members’ capacity to engage with the local community, developing and communicating research that matters to the region; 3) To increase the local community’s access to and understanding of research and evidence that can inform local decision-making. 

The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute will communicate the work of the Faculty Fellows as projects develop, and will use the experience to shape and grow an ongoing Faculty Fellows program. If you have any questions about the program or would like to support its growth, please contact Lori Thomas at LoriThomas@uncc.edu.