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The Daily Tar Heel

Beverly Perdue leads digital education initiative

Former N.C. Gov. Beverly Perdue announced last week that she will lead a new digital education nonprofit, marking her first return to the public sphere since she left the Governor’s Mansion last year.

The Digital Learning Institute, or DigiLEARN, was founded by Perdue and will include former Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer as vice chairman. It aims to expand technology use in the learning process throughout the nation.

“This is different than anything in the country,” Perdue said in a speech announcing the project. “This is the first time I have been excited about something innovative in education in years.”

Before she entered politics, Perdue was a public school teacher, and she holds a Ph.D. in education administration from the University of Florida.

Perdue said DigiLEARN’s collaborative nature will set it apart from similar organizations.

“The bringing together of educators and policymakers is key because this can’t happen without policy change,” she said. “The digital world is bringing us profound and rapid changes, and it is revolutionizing education and the way we live.

“It’s imperative that we give every child and adult across the nation access to cutting-edge technology tools that can raise the quality of education.”

Perdue said DigiLEARN has received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Technology. Both foundations pledged $500,000.

Since her term as governor ended, Perdue has served as a visiting fellow at both Harvard University and Duke University.

She spent the fall at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy.

“Bev Perdue has been a real asset to the Duke community,” said the school’s dean, Kelly Brownell, in a November email. “Her vast knowledge of the political process, current issues and how students might be inspired to pursue careers in public service is invaluable as we think through some of the most challenging policy issues of our time.”

Perdue was the first N.C. governor not to run for a second term since governors were first able to do so. She battled low approval ratings and a hostile Republican-dominated legislature during her term .

“We as a society undervalue former governors,” said Ferrel Guillory, a UNC journalism professor and a personal friend of Perdue. “We need to understand they come away with experiences and lessons learned that we should plug into. The nonprofit gives her a vehicle in applying her career as a public service.”

DigiLEARN will not be Perdue’s full-time job — she will also be starting a consulting firm called Perdue Strategies Group.

“She has an opportunity to make a difference in public education,” Guillory said.

“We need the experience from people willing to stay in public service.”

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