By Jessi Loerch
The Center for an Informed Public at the University of Washington has hired Julia Carter as its first director of strategy and operations. Carter fills a key position to help the center carry out its mission.
Carter couldn’t have started at a better time, said Jevin West, the center’s director and an associate professor at the Information School. With the rapid spread of the coronavirus, the center’s mission to combat misinformation, promote an informed society, and improve democratic discourse has become even more important. As soon as Carter stepped into her new role, she began making a difference.
“It really speaks to her ability to manage a crisis situation,” West said. “It would have been challenging to come into a brand new center and get things rolling, even without the current crisis. But it hasn’t stalled her one bit, and I feel fully confident giving her the keys to the center.”
Carter comes to CIP with a background in higher education and non-profit work. She worked at Stanford University for 11 years before moving to Seattle three years ago to help direct the Washington/Alaska Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Throughout her career, Carter said, she has valued mission-driven work. That’s what attracted her to the center.
“The work they are doing is so important,” she said. “Information comes at us so quickly and from so many different sources. It’s critical that we are educated consumers of information. The mission is really significant to me.”
Carter will keep the center running smoothly day to day while keeping sight of the larger picture. She’ll take charge of hiring and managing other staff members, managing budgets, coordinating with collaborators and working with students, while also focusing on the center’s long-term strategy.
“It’s an interesting blend of the big picture of strategy and the nitty-gritty details,” she said. “One of the challenges for any new center is defining scope. What do we say yes to and what do we say no to? How are we disciplined and thoughtful? How do we best use our expertise in a way that informs the community, informs our research and helps that democratic discourse?”
West said that focus on mission is a vital part of Carter’s role. She will also provide continuity at the center. West currently serves as director, but will hold that position for only a year and a half before a new director rotates in. Carter will serve as a steady leadership presence and is already having a positive effect, West said.
“Having Julia help us set up the center and keep things rolling is so nice because it allows us to focus on research and teaching. It’s been tremendous. It’s only been two weeks and I don’t know what I would do without her,” he said.
The center also recently hired Paul Lockaby as senior data engineer. Lockaby will focus on managing the massive amounts of data the center works with.
“He’s very passionate about the subject and he’s already been absolutely invaluable to the team,” West said. “One of the big bottlenecks in our work is managing the data. He’s going to help us release that bottleneck.”
This is just the beginning of a hiring surge for the center, West said.
“It’s well more than a year ago that we started thinking about this new center,” he said. “And now our new staff are helping us implement our ideas and our vision. It’s exciting to see people putting their talents and efforts toward achieving our goals. It will really allow us to take the center to a new level.”