Alumna First Woman to Head Institute

Jessica Grant ’04 began leading the institute July 1 and succeeds Todd BenDor (Photo: UNC)

A Carolina alumna has been named interim director of the Odum Institute for Research in Social Science, becoming the first woman to lead the organization in its 100-year history.

Jessica Grant ’04 began leading the institute July 1 and succeeds Todd BenDor, who had served as director since 2018 and is now chair of the department of city and regional planning in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The Odum Institute provides consultation and education “to enable, advance, strengthen, and accelerate inquiry in the social, health, and data sciences, expanding UNC’s impact and improving the lives of people in North Carolina and around the world,” according to its website.

As interim director, Grant will be responsible for overseeing research, outreach and grant-development activities. She is expected to continue building “strong, collaborative relationships with departments, schools and other centers and institutes on campus, as well as institutions and organizations outside the University,” according to a University News article.

Before assuming the interim directorship at Odum, Grant worked in RTI International’s survey research division for more than 13 years, most recently as a research survey scientist and administrative manager in the public health and clinical research program. She is an expert in quantitative and qualitative modes of data collection and has managed survey research projects for federal and state government agencies, universities, private organizations and foundations, according to University News.

Grant earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and women’s studies from Carolina and a master’s degree in sociology from Fayetteville State University, where she previously worked as the survey research center coordinator at FSU’s Research Center for Health Disparities.

The institute is named after Howard Washington Odum, who came to UNC in 1920 as the Kenan Professor of Sociology “to direct the School of Public Welfare, and the Department of Sociology,” according to the website.

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