Who We Are?

At EPU, we believe that the path to building a more just, inclusive, and equitable South is by
advancing social change and racial equity. Network building and sharing what works can
strengthen and expand the success of leaders who are advancing equity, so we partner with
advocates and pastors, policymakers and community members, non-profits and media, and
everyone in between.

Our Unum Fellows program is a unique, non-partisan fellowship that supports Southern leaders
as they drive sustainable change in their communities. Through previous iterations of Unum
Fellows, leaders gained or expanded upon their understanding of how to address racial and
economic equity within communities. Each Unum Fellow learned from nationally recognized
experts, consulted with peers across the South, and designed and implemented an equity-
based project that to create meaningful change.

What We’re Looking For?

This year we’re focused on climate and environmental justice. We’re looking for public and civic sector leaders in the American South who are engaged in work on climate and the environment and who want to deepen their focus on racial equity. We’re seeking individuals who demonstrate:

  • A strong commitment to learning about and promoting equity,
  • Openness to continued learning and self-reflection,
  • An awareness of environmental and climate issues in your community, and
  • The will to meaningfully engage with community partners when building solutions.

We want to support projects where a year of flexible financial support will catalyze your work, impact, and results. Projects could include things like:

  • A mayor launching a new workforce development program to prepare economically disadvantaged residents for green jobs;
  • A state legislator improving regulations to protect at-risk communities from exposure to toxic chemicals;
  • A senior official embedding equity in a city’s disaster preparedness efforts; or
  • A non-profit leader developing interventions to improve air quality for residents.

We understand that this work takes time. Some projects may move forward by leaps and bounds during the fellowship, but still be multi-year projects. Others may produce complete bodies of work.

You can read about and meet our past cohorts to get a sense of the types of people and projects we look for.

What We Offer

We bring Fellows together over 18 months to learn and exchange ideas. The first phase will involve learning about equity and designing a responsive equity initiative. We’ll focus on:

  • Foundational skill-building in applying a racial equity framework,
  • Using disaggregated data to make the case for equity,
  • Communicating effectively about equity, and
  • Building strong partnerships with community. 

In the second phase, we’ll support Fellows as they implement the project they’ve developed. Fellows will receive baseline funding of $10,000 for their projects, with the opportunity to apply for additional funding from EPU. (Note that during the fellowship a fiscal agent relationship must be established with a non-profit, community-based organization for project funding to be dispersed.)

However, we believe this fellowship is about more than money to do your work. Your cohort will become your community. You’ll be part of a tight-knit, catalytic group of fellows interested in climate and environmental justice who will be working on their projects alongside you. 

You’ll be supported by experts stationed inside EPU and external advisors to EPU. You’ll have use of our deep connections to and across the South, its communities, its policymakers, and its racial justice champions, clergy, artists, movers, and shakers.  


The fellowship runs for 18 months. The program is not full-time; we designed it to complement your current work and projects. As we want you to make the most of your EPU time and resources, Fellows are expected to fully participate in program convenings, webinars, and calls. Fellows should plan to spend around 5 – 7 hours a month on fellowship activities.


Key Dates

Applications Open January 27, 2023
Applications Close March 15, 2023
Selection April 2023
Opening Convening in New Orleans, LA June 14 – 16, 2023
Fellowship Concludes November 2024

Frequently Asked Questions

Our research has taught us that people place a great deal of hope in their local leadership. We want to empower Southern local leadership to act on issues of race and class in new ways. The Unum Fellows program will give leaders in Southern communities the tools and resources they need to tear down the barriers that separate us by race and class.

EPU defines equity as the fair opportunity for everyone to reach their full potential regardless of demographic, social, economic, or geographic status.

Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. (source: EPA)

Climate justice is the principle that the benefits reaped from activities that cause climate change and the burdens of climate change impacts should be distributed fairly. (source: MIT).

Eligibility Questions

EPU is focused on the following Southern states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

There are no population requirements for the community you serve. We welcome applicants from all kinds and sizes of communities.

There are no minimum staff requirements. Fellows will engage their senior staff, as available and needed to support the implementation of strategic plans that are borne in the fellowship program.

This fellowship is a good fit for leaders who see challenges that disparately impact people of color and/or living in poverty and want to more deeply explore issues of environmental and climate justice. You may not yet have a deep knowledge of equity, but you are interested in developing your knowledge and taking action.

You will be committing to attend two in-person convenings: one in June of 2023 and the other in June of 2024, to participate in regular fellowship activities, and to design and implement a project to advance equity in your community.

You should expect to spend five to seven hours a month on the fellowship through the learning phase. In the implementation phase, the amount of time you dedicate will depend on the project that you have designed.

Fellowship Funding Questions

Yes, EPU will pay the travel costs associated with the in-person convenings.

All Fellows who actively participate in the program will receive $10,000. Additionally, Fellows will have the opportunity to apply for supplemental funding from EPU, depending on their project needs and funding availability. 

A fiscal agent is required both to facilitate the disbursement of funds and to strengthen and deepen community partnerships.

Fiscal agents must be a 501(c)(3) organization. If you are a non-profit leader, note that project funding should not serve as a proxy for an organizational grant.

Funding may only be used on your Unum Fellows project and should only be used for allowable 501c3 activities (e.g., funding should not be used for partisan campaign activity). You and your fiscal agent will be required to report on your expenditures.

No, there are no cash or in-kind match requirements.

Project implementation will occur through November 2024. Extensions may be available on a limited basis, but you should plan to expend all project funds by November of 2024.

Skill-Building/TA Questions

You should expect to learn equity fundamentals as well as practical tools for how to improve equity in your community. Core learning themes will ensure that fellows:  

  • Gain perspective on the systemic and structural nature of racism; 
  • Gain skills for creating equitable organizations and systems; 
  • Learn how to design and implement effective equity-driven policy; 
  • Learn how to use data and research to develop strategies for equitable systems change;
  • Examine successful strategies to navigate political levers at the state level, and
  • Enhance communications opportunities to advance new narratives on race and class.

The amount and kind of technical assistance you receive will depend on the issue area that you have identified. It may include things like supplemental training or expert analysis, depending on your needs.  

Submission & Notification Questions

The application is due March 15, 2023 by 11:59pm CT.

The successful application should demonstrate: 

  • a strong commitment to learning about and promoting equity, 
  • openness to continued learning and self-reflection, 
  • an awareness of environmental and climate issues in your community, and
  • the will to meaningfully engage with community partners when building solutions.

Yes, you will receive an email confirmation of your application submission.

There are no additional general application steps, although we may reach out to you with follow-up questions about your application.

We will be notifying applicants of whether their applications were successful in April 2023.

Technical Questions

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