2017-2018 Alumni Council

The Robertson Alumni Council serves as a community-driven programming and advisory body for the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program. The Council supports Robertson alumni community building, contributions, and ongoing leadership development programs, and acts as a sounding board for the Robertson Program’s Staff and leadership. If you have questions related to the Council or have ideas for alumni programming, please e-mail alumni@robertsonscholars.org.

2017-2018 Council

Alumni Council Co-Chairs: Jagir Patel and Caroline Whistler

Alumni Council Members: Kavitha Kalappa, Jeremy Knight, Caroline Leland, and John Harris


Council Profiles

jagirJagir Patel (UNC 2013) works on formulating and implementing the President’s budget for special education, higher education, and education research programs at the U.S. Department of Education (ED).  Prior to joining ED, Jagir received his master’s degree at Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he conducted policy research on early childhood assessments, teacher evaluations, and school finance.  Jagir’s career in education was sparked during his community summer in the Mississippi Delta, where he interned at the Sunflower County Freedom Project.


caroine-wCaroline Whistler co-founded Third Sector Capital Partners after completing a Fulbright Fellowship in Brazil researching nonprofit sustainability. Prior to Third Sector she worked at Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF) Capital Partners, a leader in applying growth metrics and accountability to equity-like financing for high performing nonprofits. Caroline opened the San Francisco office for Third Sector and leads the government advisory and project construction engagements for the firm. In 2015, she was named in the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s 40 Under 40 list in recognition of her leading role advancing Pay for Success in the United States. Caroline was a Duke Robertson from the Class of 2008.


kk-photoKavitha Kolappa is a psychiatrist at the Massachusetts General Hospital. She was a Robertson Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she received a BA in International Studies. During her university years, she spent summers working in New Orleans, Cuba, and South Africa. She subsequently received her MD from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and her MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health. She has previously worked with the Global Health Council, International Rescue Committee, Médecins Sans Frontières, and Universities Allied for Essential Medicines. Her current academic interests include global mental health, access to medicines, and industry conflict of interest in the public sector; her work has been published in the Bulletin of the WHO, Huffington Post blog, and Lancet Psychiatry. She enjoys yoga, dogs, and warm cups of tea.


jeremyJeremy Knight is the Director of Communications at Students for Education Reform (SFER), an organization that develops college students into grassroots organizers who fight for educational justice in their communities. He leads SFER’s communications and media strategy, which positions students as fierce truth tellers about the state of our schools and communities and thought leaders in creative solutions to address inequity. Jeremy was a UNC scholar in the class of 2013, where he studied city and regional planning and received his B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication. He also received a minor in education at Duke. Jeremy spent his summers teaching in the Mississippi Delta, facilitating a rural participatory community development project in Sierra Leone, and working in the transport planning department in Sydney, Australia.


On location studio portraits of Robertson Scholars against a marbled gray portable backdrop.Caroline Leland (UNC 2015) is a freelance reporter, essayist, and content strategist in Nashville, TN. Her favorite thing to write about is food systems, an interest largely sparked by her Community Summer at Crescent City Farmers Market in New Orleans. (Biggest career accomplishment to date is a story on vertical farming for NPR’s Here & Now show.) Before graduating from UNC’s School of Journalism, Caroline co-led the Robertson peer mentoring program. Forever grateful for the support and inspiration of the Robertson community, Caroline is excited to be building a stronger alumni network through her work on the Alumni Council.


John Harris (UNC 2012) is an attorney at the Smith Anderson law firm in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he helps businesses and individuals navigate complex disputes. John attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Robertson Scholar, where he studied political science and public policy. He spent summers working, traveling, and studying in New Orleans, Egypt, Israel, Raleigh, and Atlanta. John accepted a full-tuition Chancellors’ Scholarship to attend the University of North Carolina School of Law, and spent a year after law school in Washington, D.C. clerking for Judge Karen L. Henderson of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. John now lives with his wife, Kerry Anne, and their son, William, in Apex, North Carolina. He’s an avid (some would say rabid) Carolina basketball fan and is involved in the North Carolina political arena.