Emily Adams

Vice President of Education and Organizational Development

Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina


Emily Adams knew before entering the MPA program that she wanted to do “mission-driven work.” She is realizing that goal as vice president of education and organizational development for Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, and as a committed community volunteer.

After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill, Adams worked as assistant human resources manager for A Southern Season before moving to Portland, Oregon, and joining Arras Inc., an administrative support organization that works with nonprofit organizations. She was a human resources assistant and later became a training coordinator and executive assistant, working with member organizations that serve families and at-risk youth, doing orientations, team-building, and visioning work. She attended trainings on topics such as values-based management and diversity that moved her more clearly onto her ultimate career path and prompted her to return to school for an MPA.

Adams was accepted to three MPA programs in different areas of the country, and chose UNC-Chapel Hill primarily because of the individual attention she received while deciding. “Steve Allred [director of the program at the time] spent time on the phone with me, not to recruit me, but to help me decide what was best for me,” she says.  In addition, she appreciated that there were faculty, alumni, and students present at her admissions interview; and that the program included a nonprofit track. It didn’t hurt that Adams is originally from Boone; she liked the idea of coming back home to North Carolina.

Many of Adams’ MPA classes were important to her development, but a range of classes in nonprofit administration and management stand out for her. Particularly lasting, she says, was one for which she attended a Town of Carborro meeting where nonprofits presented funding requests to the town board. “It helped me understand the relationship between government and nonprofits,” she says, an insight that is particularly useful as she addresses growth and change within her organization.

“The MPA is a great generalist degree,” says Adams, “where you work with a diverse group of fellow students and learn solid leadership and management skills, public speaking, and gain knowledge of finance and budget issues.” She credits both the curriculum and the networking opportunities as invaluable to her career. As internship coordinator/instructor with UNC’s APPLES program, she got to know directors and staff of countless nonprofit organizations, a network that is useful today.

At Planned Parenthood, Adams splits her time between administrative duties−managing a staff of educators, coaching other supervisors, budget planning, and staff training; and direct service−peer education training, parent-child workshops, and sexuality education.

“The work that most nonprofits do is challenging; we often deal with hard issues. I believe in government,” says Adams, “but nonprofits can often be more flexible, nimble, and more responsive to a community’s needs.”

That’s one of the reasons that she supports multiple organizations. In addition to her more than full-time work for Planned Parenthood, Adams chairs the Orange County Human Services Advisory Commission, sits on the Orange County Human Relations Commission on Diversity and Social Justice, serves on the board of the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (APP) Campaign of NC, and is advocacy chair for the Durham Coalition for APP.

She also cites the importance of maintaining connections with other MPA alumni. “I can’t throw a penny without hitting an MPA alum among my friends and colleagues,” she says. She works with other alumni in her volunteer activities and in many of the other nonprofits, foundations, or government offices that are an integral part of her job. “I feel a huge professional support from MPA alums,” she says. “I trust their knowledge and their judgment.”