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Friday Institute Adds Two New Faculty Fellows to Fellowship Program

RALEIGH, N.C. — NC State College of Education Associate Professor Jessica Hunt, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor Crystal Chen Lee, Ed.D., have been selected to serve two-year terms as 2020-2022 Friday Institute faculty fellows at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation. Friday Institute faculty fellows, who are nominated and approved by the Friday Institute and their College of Education departments, serve on the Friday Institute leadership team, provide leadership and direction for the Friday Institute and contribute to the overall intellectual life of the Friday Institute.

“The Friday Institute is delighted to announce the 2020-2022 Friday Institute faculty fellows, Drs. Jessica Hunt and Crystal Lee,” said Hiller Spires, Ph.D., Friday Institute executive director and associate dean in the NC State College of Education. “The Friday Fellows program underscores the strong research collaboration between the Friday Institute and the College of Education, as we support faculty to engage in high-impact research that positively affects our community, the nation and the world.”

To promote synergistic research relations between the Friday Institute and the NC State College of Education, College of Education faculty are invited to affiliate with the Friday Institute based on alignment with the Friday Institute mission. Three different types of affiliations are available, with different levels of engagement with the Friday Institute: Friday Institute scholars, Friday Institute faculty fellows and Friday Institute faculty senior fellows. 

Learn more about these two new faculty fellows below:

Jessica Hunt, Ph.D.

Associate Professor; Mathematics Education, Special Education

Jessica Hunt, Ph.D., began her career in education as a middle school mathematics teacher in a technology demonstration school in Florida. From that work, she grew to love teaching students at risk for mathematics difficulties or disabilities. Hunt argues that mathematics instruction for these students should work to uncover students’ strengths, give them access to their mathematical reasoning and support the advance of that reasoning.

Her work at the Friday Institute is focused on two projects: Teaching Math to Young Children and Model Mathematics Education (ModelME). As part of a new research grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Hunt is a co-principal investigator on the team to develop and study two new Professional Learning Online Modules (PLOM) for educators based upon existing IES Practice Guides. For this project, she will be the content lead on one of the modules, “Teaching Math to Young Children”, which will provide evidence-based principles and instructional materials to support the mathematical learning of young children. For ModelME, she will lead her team to develop a free, game-based, integrated curriculum for students with learning disabilities and difficulties in fourth through sixth grade to increase understanding of and engagement in fraction concepts. She will also work with the Professional Learning and Leading Collaborative team at the Friday Institute to develop high-quality professional learning for educators that will be associated with the game.  

“I was honored and excited to become part of such a wonderful group of forward thinking people,” Hunt said. “I am very much looking forward to collaborating with dedicated professionals to innovate the learning experience for students with disabilities.”

Crystal Chen Lee, Ed.D.

Assistant Professor; English Education and Literacy 

Crystal Chen Lee’s research lies at the nexus of literacy, community-based organizations and marginalized youth. She is the founding director and principal investigator of the Literacy and Community Initiative (LCI) and formerly worked with urban teachers and students as a doctoral research fellow for Teaching Residents at Teachers College and as a Zankel Urban Fellow at the Center for Professional Education of Teachers at Columbia University. Lee began her teaching experience as a high school English teacher in New Jersey and a literacy instructor at Teachers College, Columbia University and Montclair State University. In addition to her teaching, she has served as an International Leadership Foundation Fellow in the United States Congress and an education intern at International Justice Mission, a nonprofit organization focused on human rights, law and law enforcement. 

Since 2019, Lee has worked with Jose Picart, Ph.D., deputy director of the Friday Institute, to establish the Literacy and Community Initiative (LCI), which partners with three community-based organizations — Juntos NCCORRAL and Bull City YouthBuild — to examine and empower youth voices. LCI investigates how literacy education can encourage youth civic engagement and inspire underserved youth to be leaders in their communities. As a fellow, Lee intends to grow these community partnerships through the LCI program and work to build even more Friday Institute programs into strategic community-based partnerships that serve currently marginalized students. 

“Being recommended and receiving the Friday Institute faculty fellowship is indeed a true honor, and I feel incredibly grateful for this opportunity,” Lee said. “When I first interviewed at NC State University in 2017, my visit to the Friday Institute drew me to work here as a faculty member. I am passionate about synergistic and interdisciplinary collaborations, particularly within community engagement, and I saw those partnerships exist and develop at the Friday Institute. I believe that the Friday Institute is committed to educational equity both locally and globally, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation brings together researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to lead the transition to next-generation education systems that will prepare students for success in the digital-age world. It conducts research, develops educational resources, provides professional development programs for educators, advocates to improve teaching and learning, and helps inform policymaking. The Friday Institute is a part of the NC State College of Education. Visit to learn more.