On Feb. 8, 2019, the Kenan Scholars traveled to Raleigh on their biennial North Carolina Capital Trek. The North Carolina State Legislative Building rolled out the red carpet for the scholars with a tour of the legislative chambers. Kenan Scholars learned about Edward Durell Stone, the lead architect, and his vision for white, gold, and red building decorations, which would capture the importance and scope of decisions made in the building. While sitting in the balcony over-looking the legislative floor, students took in the grandeur, which the tour guide proclaimed, “even astonishes those who work in the building daily.” The tour set the stage for the day’s discussions about the North Carolina government’s work to become a leader in innovation and scientific discovery.
The next stop of the day was the LEED certified Green Square, which houses the Nature Research Center (NRC) as well as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Students were greeted by Secretary Machelle Sanders from the Department of Administration and Secretary Michael Regan from the Department of Environmental Quality who spoke about their roles in the state government. They talked how both their departments are working to maintain North Carolina’s natural resources and public health, while also keeping the economy thriving. The Kenan Institute’s mission—to put the private sector to work for the public good—seemed to resonate with Secretaries Sanders and Regan, who spoke about promoting and championing innovation on all fronts for all state residents, from advancing green energy to efforts to remove the deadly chemical GenX from Wilmington’s water supply.
After speaking with the secretaries, students toured Green Square to see the many innovations that led to the building’s LEED certification. Highlights included a living green wall, sensor controlled light bulbs and heating systems built into the floor rather than the ceiling. The tour also highlighted how during the building’s construction, the contractor recycled 84 percent of construction waste, using building materials from the previous building to build the new one.
During lunch scholars met with John Hardin, the executive director for the Office of Science, Technology & Innovation to discuss North Carolina’s economic history and the state’s future. Students engaged in a lively discussion about how the state is working to promote innovation in all economic sectors and how people from diverse backgrounds have formulated multilevel approaches to growing North Carolina’s economy. While work has been done to make the Triangle a hub of scientific discovery, Hardin spoke to students about the various grants that are available to organizations and companies hoping to develop the next breakthrough innovation in the sciences, such as the One North Carolina Small Business Program and the North Carolina Green Business Fund.
The last stop of the trek was at the Fiscal Research Division, where students were greeted by Mark Trogdon, the director of the Office of Fiscal Research. Students learned about the role the divisions plays in providing non-partisan fiscal and policy analysis of budgetary and taxation issues that come before the General Assembly, including developing a balanced state budget. Students reviewed the state’s fiscal year 2019 budget and learned that a whopping 57 percent or $13.8 billion is spent on education. Scholars then reviewed the fiscal note for Senate Bill 153, the Military Retiree State Insurance State Relief bill. Though the bill didn’t become law, students learned the process the division has in place to determine the fiscal impact of proposed legislation.
The day ended as it had begun, with students testing their newfound knowledge of North Carolina state government on the bus ride back to Chapel Hill. Scholars furthered their understanding of how the business community can collaborate with government to serve the public good.
Learn more about the Kenan Scholars Program.
The Kenan Institute’s mission—to put the private sector to work for the public good—seemed to resonate with Secretaries Sanders and Regan, who spoke about promoting and championing innovation on all fronts for all state residents, from advancing green energy to efforts to remove the deadly chemical GenX from Wilmington’s water supply.