A few months after losing a bid for vice president and surrendering his U.S. Senate seat, John Edwards is again employed -- this time as a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Edwards announced Friday that he will head a new nonpartisan center to study ways to move more Americans from poverty to the middle class. He also will give a series of five large public lectures at the university and be a guest teacher in the UNC Law School, where he earned his law degree.
The part-time position, which lasts two years, pays $40,000 annually and begins Feb. 14. Edwards' salary will be paid from private donations. University officials said it will come from money donated to the school for unrestricted purposes.
Many Democrats see Edwards as a presidential candidate in 2008, although he hasn't announced a run. The new job will give him a public platform to discuss an issue central to his 2004 campaign: the divide between rich and poor in the United States.
His spokeswoman, Kim Rubey, said Edwards accepted the job for one reason.
"He feels these are some of the most important issues facing the country right now, and he wants to make sure something gets done," Rubey said Friday.
Edwards was not available for interviews.
He and his wife, Elizabeth, graduated from the UNC Law School in 1977. The Edwards family is planning to live in Chapel Hill full-time once their two children, Jack and Emma Claire, finish the school year in Washington.
UNC Law School Dean Gene Nichol said he approached Edwards about taking a job at the university shortly after the election. He said the idea for the new Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity came out of discussions between Edwards and university leaders.
Nichol said Edwards' job is to bring together university faculty and experts from throughout the country to study poverty and stimulate public discussion about solutions to the problems that keep families out of the middle class. Any information they gather could inform public policy, Nichol said.
"He's one of the most important public figures in the nation," Nichol said. "I can't think of anyone who would do a more effective job of bringing people from around the country together."
UNC Chancellor James Moeser said having Edwards on campus will boost the school's national profile. He said that Edwards' political motivations have been off the table during negotiations to bring him to campus. "We've tried to keep this on an academic footing, and he will have his own political life off the campus," Moeser said.
In his release, Edwards said he is looking forward to diving into his new job.
"The fact that millions in this country go to work every day and still live in poverty is wrong and unacceptable," Edwards said. "This is personal to me, and I believe that it is one of the most important moral issues of our time."
Staff writer Kristin Collins can be reached at 829-4881 or firstname.lastname@example.org.