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The Department of Academic Affairs and Professional Development in the Vann Administration aims to advocate for, progress, and sustain progressive and equitable academic policies that support all students, especially marginalized and underrepresented students. It is the AAPD’s mission to analyze current academic and professional development policies at UNC and ensure they are free from systemic barriers that prevent success for students. All Tar Heels, whether at the professional, graduate, or undergraduate level deserve fair access to professional and academic resources, as well as agency within and outside their classrooms. In accordance with this vision and understanding of our current state of unequal utilization of essential programs here at Carolina, AAPD officials promise to analyze resolutely, research, and overhaul sources of disparities in resource access, maintain end goal transparency with our student body to ensure accountability and incorporate student identities, interests and viewpoints into our policy initiatives through one-on-one meetings and college-wide surveys. The department is also passionate about serving our student body by partnering with UNC organizations to help budding students from diverse backgrounds find opportunities catered to their discipline and help them understand their potential future career choices.

By the implementation of equitable policies and fair access to resources, we hope students flourish during their time at Carolina and are equipped with all the tools to bolster their professional goals beyond.


Meetings of the Department of Academic Affairs and Professional Development are held weekly on Tuesdays from 6:00-7:00 pm in Gardner 209.

For all Academic Affairs and Professional Development-related inquiries, please email Co-Director Sharma ( or Co-Director Maniya (

Neil Sharma (he/him)

Co-Director of the Department of Academic Affairs and Professional Development ||

Neil is a junior transfer from Greensboro, NC, double majoring in Public Policy and Political Science, with a minor in Japanese. At college, he is a Bonner Leader with Campus Y, and works as an advocate for Chapel Hill’s own Community Empowerment Fund. Neil recently worked as a University of North Carolina Association of Student Governments Fellow, where he was tasked to research and analyze the efficacy of standardized testing for UNC-System admission and make policy recommendations thereafter. He has been involved with Student Government for the past 2 years, having served in the Executive branch of his previous institution, Guilford Technical Community College.

Neil’s goals for the upcoming year are to continue his passion to identify, dissect and overhaul systemic biases in modern-day educational policies through comprehensive research, hands-on student collaboration, and mass survey feedback. Longer term, he hopes to work towards a future where pursuing higher education aspirations is no longer a matter of financial or bureaucratic considerations, but rather simply subject to the passion of the budding student.

Zainab Maniya (she/her)

Co-Director of the Department of Academic Affairs and Professional Development ||

Zainab Maniya is a junior from Charlotte, NC studying Business and Public Policy with a Spanish minor. She has worked in student government her past two years at Carolina, in the Affordability Committee her freshman year and as the Chief of Staff under the Student Body Vice President her sophomore year. Zainab is really excited to continue work in student government as Co-Director of the Department of Academic Affairs and Professional Development this upcoming school year!


Department Initiatives for the Vann Administration

Encourage Online Accessibility and Use of Open Access Resources – The Department will reach out to professors across majors to advocate for the use of free open access or low-cost resources where possible. Educators will continue to be advised on minimizing the monetary load that students will be asked to take on for mandatory curriculum supplies and learning goods. AAPD will also continue to work with the Faculty Governance Council to ensure all educators upload lectures online, to maintain the required standards of fairness and accessibility.

Additional Scholarships to Support Marginalized Students – The Department will make efforts to minimize costs of enrollment for students from marginalized backgrounds by working in conjunction with the UNC Office of Scholarships and Student Aid to institute new scholarships that broaden financial assistance and ensure underrepresented students receive additional support to fund the materials complete their Tar Heel journey.

Student Body Wide Survey Regarding University Academic Policies – The Department will curate and send out several fields of study specific surveys to the student body with incentives to gather feedback regarding changes students want to see in existing academic policies at the university, as well as new academic policies that should be enacted to support their professional and academic development. These surveys will gauge policy visibility and utilization by student background, and thus provide information that can help overhaul existing academic and professional programs by reducing barriers to them.

Promotion of Field of Study Specific Resources and Research Opportunities – The Department will host hybrid events in partnership with organizations like Tar Heel Transfers,  UNC Career Services, and the First-Generation Student Association to connect first-generation and minority students with resources, research, internships, and career pathways catered to their major/department of interest and allow them to hear from both professors and industry leaders to better understand their path forward. AAPD will also institute an online Resource and Career hub to provide students with a continuously updated list of connections and opportunities, based on their field of study, to boost their collegiate and professional growth.

Peer and Professional Tutoring Promotion and Revamp – The Department will work with the Learning Center to better integrate practices that are more welcoming and visible to marginalized and transfer communities, allowing these students to take advantage of these essential yet underused resources throughout their time at Carolina.

Efforts will be made to identify inefficiencies in the provision and availability of these tools, and the department will advocate for more opportunities for one-on-one support and tutoring. AAPD will also work to expand the Learning Center’s Test Prep Resources and study programs to boost student success as they prepare for graduate school or later professional endeavors.

Industry Expert Events and Mentorship: AAPD will reach out and invite established alumni and industry professionals as speakers so they may share their insight and discuss possible career pathways or educational concentrations that are in vogue. The intended purpose of these events is to also allow students to network within their field of interest and gain opportunities for professional development and mentorship outside of college.

Promote AAPD Visibility: AAPD realizes that without visibility within the student body, the Department will struggle to build trust as an organization that works to empower students from all walks of life, especially those from marginalized backgrounds. Hence, AAPD wishes to initiate a monthly event where its officers introduce their department at various lecture halls and meet with students one-on-one in locations like the Pit, to allow students to understand AAPD’s purpose, ask questions, and provide feedback on their college life or policy concerns. This feedback will allow the department to collaborate with students on college-wide policy initiatives and modifications.

Graduate and Professional Program Advancement: AAPD will continue to promote resources, programs, and opportunities for graduate and professional students.