UNC MPA alum Elizabeth Biser speaks at University Day 2023 on “Service to Our State”

 Panel discussion participants Christopher Everett, Alex Lassiter, Elizabeth Biser and Pablo Friedmann discuss how Tar Heels contribute to North Carolina during the 230th University Day celebration at Memorial Hall on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Thursday October 12, 2023. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

UNC Master of Public Administration program alumna Elizabeth Biser participated as a panelist at 2023 University Day on October 12, 2023. This year’s University Day celebrated UNC’s 230-year-history and centered around the theme of “Service to Our State.”

Biser ’17 spoke on a panel with three fellow UNC alumni, discussing “Tar Heel Contributions to North Carolina.” The conversation was facilitated by UNC Study Body President Christopher L. Everett. Pablo Friedmann ’09, director of the Multilingual Resource Center for Durham Public Schools, and Alex Lassiter ’10, founder and CEO of GreenPlaces, spoke alongside Biser.

As secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Biser is charged with oversight of the agency, which protects the state’s environment and natural resources. Its programs seek to safeguard air, water, land, coastal fisheries, and the public’s health; the agency also offers technical assistance and encourages responsible behavior and respect toward the environment.

Biser spoke during the panel about the honor to work with and lead her colleagues in the effort to safeguard North Carolina’s environmental future.

“Getting a chance to lead the state agency whose mission is to provide science-based environmental stewardship for the health and prosperity of all North Carolinians is an honor every day,” she said.

“I work with 1,600 folks across the state whose entire career is dedicated to making sure that we have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and that our environment is supporting our way of life.”

Biser credited her educational experience at the School of Government—and particularly the UNC MPA program—as vital in instilling the knowledge and interpersonal skills necessary to lead the agency’s increasingly complex work.

“The lessons that I learned at the School Government definitely helped me every day in thinking about public service leadership, how to motivate a team that is dedicated to public service, that faces so many challenges, especially in an increasingly divisive world.”

Closing out the discussion, Biser spoke to the audience about the importance of lifelong learning, in public service or any other professional field.

“Learning does not stop once you graduate. To prepare for public service—and really to prepare for anything—it’s about not thinking that the last time you walk out that classroom that it’s over,” she said.

“The key to success is making sure you are growing as a person, you are growing your skillset, and you are learning from other fields and sectors around you.”

Biser imparted the audience with advice to succeed in truly making an impact in their work: have a continued desire to be curious, ask questions, learn from them, and grow.

“The people that I have seen be most successful have embodied that lifelong learner mentality and seek out opportunities to improve.”

Biser is a double graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, holding a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Public Administration. She has a strong background in environmental affairs. In addition to her work at Biser Strategies LLC, she served as vice president of policy and public affairs at The Recycling Partnership, government relations and policy director for Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard LLP, and as director of legislative and intergovernmental affairs at the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (the predecessor of DEQ). Biser served on the School’s Foundation Board from 2019 to 2021.

Each year on Oct. 12, Carolina celebrates University Day, which marks the laying of the cornerstone of Old East — the campus’ first building and the oldest state university building in the nation. The day is a celebration of our mission as the country’s first public university and our service to North Carolina, the nation and the world through our teaching, research, and public service.

Watch the full recording of the University Day ceremony.

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