Seeking Passionate and Committed State Legislators

Apply for the 2021 UNUM Fellows cohort.

UNUM Fellows Application

Deadline is September 15, 2021.

The unique, non-partisan fellowship aims to ensure elected leaders in the South can act on the issues of racial and economic equity, driving sustainable change in their communities.

When leaders openly prioritize racial diversity and inclusion, residents are more hopeful and optimistic about their community’s future. As states navigate the COVID-19 recovery process, elected leaders must work to ensure greater equity and resilience in communities. EPU’s UNUM Fellows program provides support to help leaders move toward a more equitable future.

Through the UNUM Fellows program, EPU will support state legislators with tools to effectively advance equity in their communities through sustainable change and collaboration. Through the program UNUM Fellows will receive informational learning, coaching, trainings, technical assistance, public opinion research, customized data analysis, and more.

Fellows will have the opportunity to:

  • Embark on a period of research and analysis to develop their understanding of an issue that specifically addresses racial and/or economic disparities, preparing them to move forward within their legislative body.
  • Convene with the 2021 UNUM Fellows class to share lessons learned, participate in transformative knowledge-building, and increase engagement. (The bulk of the fellowship will take place in a virtual setting.)

Fellows will:

  • Build skills for applying an equity lens to their work
  • Use data and research to affect change
  • Examine national best practice models
  • Engage with thought leaders and experienced equity practitioners
  • Talk about race in a way that moves people forward

Qualifications:

  • Elected state legislator with experience collaborating to build common understanding and solve issues
  • Be in their current term of office through the end of 2022
  • Possess a strong commitment to learning about and advancing racial and economic equity in their communities
  • Currently hold elected office in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia or West Virginia.

Become an UNUM Fellow. Accelerate change within your community. 

View and complete application here.

Meet the Inaugural UNUM Fellows

UNUM Fellows’ first cohort includes a diverse set of Southern elected leaders, from rural mayors to suburban school board members to county commissioners and big-city mayors. This select group will embark on a year-long journey to address inequitable and discriminatory policies and practices within their communities. Uniquely positioned to redesign broken systems, they begin this signature program amidst a renewed national movement towards racial and economic justice.

Wardine Alexander

Wardine T. Alexander

City Councilor, Council President Pro Tempore, Birmingham, AL

Learn more about Wardine

Willie Brook, Jr.

Willie F. Brooks, Jr.

County Commissioner, Shelby County, TN

Learn more about Willie

Katie Cristol

Katie Cristol

County Board Member, Arlington County, VA

Learn more about Katie

Byron Gipson

Byron Gipson

Solicitor of the Fifth Circuit, Richland and Kershaw Counties, SC

Learn more about Byron

Reid Goldstein

Reid Goldstein

School Board Member, Arlington County, VA

Learn more about Reid

Dorothy Heffron

Dorothy L. Heffron

School Board Member and Vice-Chair, Chesterfield County School Board, Chesterfield County, VA

Learn more about Dorothy

Keith James

Keith James

Mayor, West Palm Beach, FL

Learn more about Keith

Steven Reed

Steven L. Reed

Mayor, Montgomery, AL

Learn more about Steven

Brian E. Rowland

Brian E. Rowland

Mayor, Prairie View, TX
Learn more about Brian

Jennifer Vidrine

Jennifer Vidrine

Mayor, Ville Platte, LA
Learn more about Jennifer

Virgil Watkins, Jr.

Virgil Watkins, Jr.

County Commissioner, Macon-Bibb County Board of Commission, Macon-Bibb County, GA
Learn more about Virgil

About the Unum Fellows Program

As part of E Pluribus Unum’s foundational research journey in 2018, we found that people place a great deal of hope in their local political leadership and better embrace the concept of racial equity when local leadership actively seeks to advance it. Through UNUM Fellows, a signature program of E Pluribus Unum, elected leaders will gain or expand upon their understanding of how to address racial and economic equity within communities. Each UNUM Fellow will learn from nationally-recognized experts, consult with peers across the South, and design and implement an equity-based project that will create sustainable, meaningful change.

While success will look different in each community, Fellows will leave the program equipped to:

  • Foster meaningful participation among key community partners and leaders to drive the advancement of equity goals and projects;
  • Advance initiatives—beginning with their Fellowship project—that address racial and economic disparities in communities;
  • Cultivate long-term visions for equity within their communities that outlive any single term or administration;
  • Talk about racial and economic equity in ways that advance discourse, with a common language and understanding; and
  • Act with urgency with the support of a strong peer network and community.

Program Partners Include

  • Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program;
  • Center for American Progress (CAP);
  • The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP);
  • FrameWorks Institute;
  • Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), a project of Race Forward;
  • Hope Policy Institute;
  • National League of Cities University (NLCU);
  • PolicyLink; and
  • What Works Cities

Meet the Inaugural UNUM Fellows

UNUM Fellows’ first cohort includes a diverse set of Southern elected leaders, from rural mayors to suburban school board members to county commissioners and big-city mayors. This select group will embark on a year-long journey to address inequitable and discriminatory policies and practices within their communities. Uniquely positioned to redesign broken systems, they begin this signature program amidst a renewed national movement towards racial and economic justice.

Wardine Alexander

Wardine T. Alexander

City Councilor, Council President Pro Tempore, Birmingham, AL

Learn more about Wardine

Willie Brook, Jr.

Willie F. Brooks, Jr.

County Commissioner, Shelby County, TN

Learn more about Willie

Katie Cristol

Katie Cristol

County Board Member, Arlington County, VA

Learn more about Katie

Byron Gipson

Byron Gipson

Solicitor of the Fifth Circuit, Richland and Kershaw Counties, SC

Learn more about Byron

Reid Goldstein

Reid Goldstein

School Board Member, Arlington County, VA

Learn more about Reid

Dorothy Heffron

Dorothy L. Heffron

School Board Member and Vice-Chair, Chesterfield County School Board, Chesterfield County, VA

Learn more about Dorothy

Keith James

Keith James

Mayor, West Palm Beach, FL

Learn more about Keith

Steven Reed

Steven L. Reed

Mayor, Montgomery, AL

Learn more about Steven

Brian E. Rowland

Brian E. Rowland

Mayor, Prairie View, TX
Learn more about Brian

Jennifer Vidrine

Jennifer Vidrine

Mayor, Ville Platte, LA
Learn more about Jennifer

Bettina Umstead

Bettina Umstead

School Board Member and Board Chair, Durham Public Schools Board of Education, Durham, NC
Learn more about Bettina

Virgil Watkins, Jr.

Virgil Watkins, Jr.

County Commissioner, Macon-Bibb County Board of Commission, Macon-Bibb County, GA
Learn more about Virgil

About the Unum Fellows Program

As part of E Pluribus Unum’s foundational research journey in 2018, we found that people place a great deal of hope in their local political leadership and better embrace the concept of racial equity when local leadership actively seeks to advance it. Through UNUM Fellows, a signature program of E Pluribus Unum, elected leaders will gain or expand upon their understanding of how to address racial and economic equity within communities. Each UNUM Fellow will learn from nationally-recognized experts, consult with peers across the South, and design and implement an equity-based project that will create sustainable, meaningful change.

While success will look different in each community, Fellows will leave the program equipped to:

  • Foster meaningful participation among key community partners and leaders to drive the advancement of equity goals and projects;
  • Advance initiatives—beginning with their Fellowship project—that address racial and economic disparities in communities;
  • Cultivate long-term visions for equity within their communities that outlive any single term or administration;
  • Talk about racial and economic equity in ways that advance discourse, with a common language and understanding; and
  • Act with urgency with the support of a strong peer network and community.

Program Partners Include

  • Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program;
  • Center for American Progress (CAP);
  • The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP);
  • FrameWorks Institute;
  • Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), a project of Race Forward;
  • Hope Policy Institute;
  • National League of Cities University (NLCU);
  • PolicyLink; and
  • What Works Cities