RALEIGH, N.C. —On Thursday, November 18th, education leaders from across the state joined together virtually to celebrate this year’s Friday Medal recipient, Mebane Rash, CEO and editor-in-chief at EducationNC (EdNC). The Friday Medal award recognizes significant, distinguished and enduring contributions to education. In addition to her leadership role at EdNC, Rash is the immediate past president of the national Governmental Research Association and has won national awards for most distinguished research, outstanding policy achievement and most effective education of the public.
Rash has been nationally recognized as a leader by various organizations, from participating in the Aspen Executive Seminar on Leadership, Values and the Good Society to being one of 60 women from 25 countries invited to spend a week at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government to study “Women and Power: Leadership in the New World.” She served on the inaugural Z. Smith Reynolds Leadership Council and was selected to be a William C. Friday Fellow for Human Relations, a fellowship for emerging leaders across North Carolina.
“Mebane has provided tremendous leadership during COVID by highlighting the work of educators and students in NC schools. Through their stories, she and EdNC kept their eyes on the prize—what works for students,” said Hiller A. Spires, Ph.D., Friday Institute executive director and associate dean in the NC State College of Education. “We are honored that she has received the Friday Medal for 2021 and has joined the distinguished list of honorees who precede her. Mebane’s passion for her work––and the students and teachers of North Carolina––is an inspiration to many.”
The Friday Medal is given annually to selected individuals who embody the mission and spirit of the Friday Institute. It is named after Bill and Ida Friday, who were passionate advocates and leaders in education for more than 50 years. Rash is the 15th recipient to receive this honor.
“I am grateful to be able to celebrate the many contributions of Mebane Rash to North Carolina’s education community,” said Paola Sztjan, Ph.D., interim dean of the College of Education, during the ceremony. “Mebane’s work, along with her team at EdNC, does an incredible job keeping our state informed about critical issues impacting education.”
NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson, Ph.D., also thanked Rash for her commitment to providing insight, data and analysis around North Carolina’s education community.
“Mebane’s thoughtful contributions to key academic issues, combined with her deep love of our great state of North Carolina, make her a monumental voice to advocate for our students, schools and communities,” said Woodson.
Mebane is a product of North Carolina’s public schools – attending Irwin Elementary, First Ward Elementary, McClintock Middle and East Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte. She graduated from the University of Virginia in 1990 and the UNC School of Law in 1993. She has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 1993, and she is admitted to practice in both the state and federal court systems.
Donnell Cannon, executive director of district transition and redesign for Edgecombe County Public Schools, and Eric Davis, chair of the North Carolina State Board of Education, introduced Rash as part of the program.
Cannon, who met Rash for the first time as he became one of the youngest principals in the history of the state, remembered Rash for her kindness, warmth and ability to make every person feel important.
“Mebane carries her gift into every room but also seeks to find the gift in every space she enters,” Cannon said. “She gave Edgecombe county children life-changing opportunities. She didn’t do it to be self-serving, but it was in line with her purpose. She shows up big for children every single time. She knows our kids don’t deserve small.”
He concluded with the Octavia Butler quote, “‘All that you touch you change. And all that you change changes you.’ And that’s Mebane.”
Davis also shared his fondness for Rash and his gratitude for her service to the people of North Carolina. Rash, he shared, leads with equal parts courage and compassion.
“The EdNC team does important work, under Mebane’s watchful eye, to first listen… and then research to bring clarity to complex issues,” Davis said.
As Rash accepted her award, she was quick to share the honor with North Carolina’s educational community at-large.
“The Friday Medal this year is about each of you and all of you, as I think Bill and Ida would want it to be,” she said.
Rash then shared a message of hope – explaining how a lack of hope is a deadly affiliation and fear is not a sustainable driver of change. Instead, it’s hope that drives her work.
The ceremony concluded with a reading of the Wayne Visser poem, “Change the World,” by Friday Institute Deputy Director Jose Picart.
Also during the ceremony, Spires announced this year’s Friday Institute graduate student fellow winners, Pamela Huff, Madeline Hinkle and Julianna Nieuwsma, who will receive $2,000 to support their dissertation research.
Huff, whose advisor is Dr. Gail Jones, is a doctoral candidate in science education. Her research investigates science programs in secondary charter schools to document available laboratory and safety equipment, physical facilities and instructional science practices. Jones also advises Nieuwsma – who is also a doctoral candidate in science education. Nieuwsma’s research investigates graduate students’ experiences in a convergent research center. This research will inform other researchers and educators about effective strategies to prepare the next generation of scientists for tackling complex environmental problems, while also focusing on the experiences of underrepresented students in STEM education.
Hinckle, who is advised by Dr. Eric Weibe, is a doctoral student in science education. She has been working on three different FI-based, NSF-funded research projects, and she has been lead or co-author on six peer-reviewed conference proceedings in addition to eight conference presentations. One of the papers that she was lead author on, The relationship of gender, experiential, and psychological factors to achievement in computer science, was a best paper finalist for the 25th Annual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education. Hinckle’s dissertation work is focused on the integration of computational thinking and computationally intensive practices in the science classroom.