IRI DEI Thought Leader Interview – Elaine Franklin and Mark Townley, Kenan Fellows Program

Event Type
Thought Leader Interview

Leading Innovation Organizations, Talent Management, Organizational Vision

Join IRI’s Lee Green as she interviews Elaine Franklin, Director, and Mark Townley, Assistant Director of Programs, at the Kenan Fellows Program. They will discuss this innovative program in North Carolina that gives STEM teachers the tools to better prepare students for jobs in their communities by working with industry partners. The Kenan Fellows use a variety of methods to promote diversity and inclusion within the program and as a model for other programs.

Founded in 2000, the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership addresses the critical need for high-quality professional development for educators, and is the largest (science, technology, engineering and math) STEM-focused teacher leadership program in North Carolina.

Approximately 25-50 outstanding K–12 teachers from across the state are selected annually for this year-long program. Key components are a three-week summer internship with a mentor in a research or applied STEM setting, and 80 hours of professional development that builds leadership capacity and promotes curricular design bridging STEM at work with STEM at school.

Elaine Franklin


Kenan Fellows Program

Dr. Elaine Franklin guides the long-term strategic planning and the vision for the growth and sustainability of the Kenan Fellows Program, a nationally recognized model for promoting teacher leadership, addressing teacher retention and advancing K-12 education. In her role, she helps build relationships statewide to enhance the reputation and the profile of the Kenan Fellows Program. Dr. Franklin joins the Kenan Fellows Program with years of experience as a teacher, researcher, and educational leader. Most recently, she served as the executive director of the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT).

She is also the former Director of the Center for Mathematics and Science Education (CMSE) at Western Carolina University.  Dr. Franklin has dedicated her career to developing and empowering effective teachers and has worked with teachers from across the United States, all disciplines and grade levels. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from UNC-Asheville, an M.A.Ed. in Education from Western Carolina University and a Ph.D. in Social Foundations of Education from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Mark Townley

Assistant Director of Programs

Kenan Fellows Program

In his role as Assistant Director of Programs, Mark Townley helps to manage all aspects of program operations including teacher recruitment, internship oversight, professional development, and project design/implementation. Mr. Townley started his career as a lateral entry teacher at Lee County Sr. High School where he taught for seven years before moving to Holly Springs High School in Wake County. He has been in the classroom for 20 years teaching Earth/Environmental Science, AP Environmental Science, and AP Research. As an award-winning educator, Mr. Townley has worked with multiple statewide agencies to create innovative curriculum and professional development and to advocate for the teaching profession.  He has served on the Governor’s Teacher Advisory Committee under Governor Roy Cooper and on the Kenan Fellows Program Board of Advisors. He holds a B.A. in Geology from North Carolina State University.

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