Sharon Hirsch Furman University

Sharon Hirsch '87

Executive Director
Donate Life North Carolina

I graduated in 1987 after having an amazing Dana Foundation Grant experience working with Dr. Guth and Dr. John Green on factionalism in the Republican Party. My senior honors paper resulted from the work -- and with pride, I theorized that the "sex related" issues would divide the Republicans in the future: AIDS, sex ed and abortion.  I think I was right.....

Since then I've used my poli sci degree in everything I've done professionally. First I worked at The Council of State Governments in Lexington, KY, where I served as a staff director for many different national associations of state government officials.  

Then I moved to North Carolina, where I became Executive Director of the NC Association of County Social Services Directors, managing the association, lobbying the legislature (often in coalition with others), creating their educational conferences and more.  Notably, I lobbied during welfare reform in in the 1990's when our more conservative legislators wanted to "block grant" TANF to all 100 counties, including giving counties the authority to set their own eligibility criteria and benefit levels.  I argued that would create chaos and "benefit shopping" among the poor who would move from poor to rich, more generous counties.  As a point of pride, one of those legislators called me "chicken little" in the News and Observer, but our side won that fight!

Then I worked for 10 years as an Assistant Director for the Durham County Department of Social Services, managing internal administrative functions (budget, finance, operations, planning and evaluation, training, customer service) and finally serving as the agency's public information officer, among other duties. Understanding the politics and how the various levels of government worked and interacted was critical to my work.

Today, I'm running Donate Life NC.  We manage the state's organ, eye and tissue donor registry.  Interacting with our partners at the DMV and the Department of Public Instruction (for driver's ed and health curriculum) is a big part of my job, along with making sure there are no changes or major issues at the legislature that would impact the ability of our registry to grow.  Board governance (and the politics of working for a board) are part of the job everyday as well!

Everyday I use my political science degree.  


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