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Jennifer Houchins Joins Friday Institute as Director of Technology Programs

RALEIGH, N.C. — Jennifer Houchins is joining the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation as the director of technology programs beginning July 1, 2021. Houchins has a combined 15 years of professional experience as both an informal STEM educator and a developer of educational technology software.

“Jennifer’s collective expertise in education, information technology, research and professional development will bring a wealth of knowledge and value to our work at the Friday Institute,” said Hiller Spires, Ph.D., executive director of the Friday Institute and associate dean at the NC State College of Education. “We are excited to have her join our team to lead our IT operations and support our technology-based initiatives.”

As the director of technology programs, Houchins will contribute to research, development and outreach efforts of emerging technologies and their use in K-12 and higher education settings. She will be responsible for the overall management of the Friday Institute’s IT services and resources and will provide leadership in IT operations, project IT support and furthering the overall mission of the Friday Institute.

I look forward to leveraging the technical expertise I’ve honed over the course of my career to drive educational innovation and strengthen our existing infrastructure to foster more equitable technology-driven classroom experiences for all students and educators throughout North Carolina and beyond,” said Houchins.

Before joining the Friday Institute, Houchins was an educator at the Shodor Education Foundation and served education efforts for initiatives such as Computing MATTERS, the Blue Waters project and the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) project. She has designed and delivered technology-focused professional development for educators and summer programs for students across North Carolina. As deputy director for the Community Engagement and Enrichment subgroup of the XSEDE project, Houchins coordinated education, outreach and training programs related to high performance computing and its applications. Additionally, in her capacity coordinating the student internship program for Blue Waters, she oversaw the development of open-source online curriculum modules aimed at preparing undergraduate students for the growing complexity of advanced computing paradigms. During this time, Houchins also improved the program’s undergraduate internship recruitment efforts and achieved an increase from less than 20% to almost 70% inclusion and participation of underserved minority students.  

As a senior software engineer, Houchins built her expertise in developing personalized learning platforms, which prompted her to pursue her doctorate in Learning Design and Technology at the NC State College of Education, where she has served as a research assistant on several projects funded by the National Science Foundation and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. Her work focuses on the development of students’ computational thinking skills and designing technology-enhanced learning environments such as makerspaces. Houchins has collaborated with education researchers at the Friday Institute, NC State’s Center for Educational Informatics and WestEd. Most recently, she has helped deliver professional development for the Friday Institute’s Learning Analytics in STEM Education Research (LASER) Institute.

“Collaborating with experts at the Friday Institute has been one of the most valuable experiences I’ve had during my time at NC State,” said Houchins. “I’m overjoyed that I have been chosen to serve as the director of technology programs and will be able to continue contributing to its mission to educate, innovate and inspire.” 

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.