Kenan Fellow Develops STEM Diversity and Equity Assets Map for Eastern North Carolina

By Beverly Owens, 2021-22 Kenan Fellow

SNOW HILL, N.C.⸻Greene County High School Science Teacher Emily Lahr, a 2022-23 Kenan Fellow, can add “cartography” skills to her repertoire.

Lahr and her Kenan Fellows Program mentor, STEM East Director Bruce Middleton, are creating an asset map of STEM diversity, equity and inclusion resources in eastern North Carolina. Her fellowship is supported by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, an organization that recognizes the critical need for interconnection in the STEM and educational community. 

The STEM East Diversity and Equity Asset Mapping Project is an effort to gather information on STEM organizations, industry partners, and community resources that highlight STEM career pathways with the goal of creating a more diverse workforce in the STEM East service area. 

Julie Connolly, the education director, from Sylvan Heights Bird Park and Kenan Fellow Emily Lahr

This is the third consecutive year the Burroughs Wellcome Fund has sponsored a Kenan Fellow to contribute to the mapping project. Last year, Kenan Fellow Susan Miller-Hendrix developed resources for the STEM SENC Diversity and Equity Asset Mapping Project. The year before Kenan Fellow Ashley Twitty worked with Dr. Carol Moore, president of STEM West, on a similiar mapping project in the western part of the state.

Lahr said the project is a large undertaking but she is determined to see it through. Additionally, she expresses gratitude for the many stakeholders who provided her with guidance and support throughout this process.

Early on, Lahr met with Alfred Mays, senior program officer for the Science Education and Diversity in Science Programs at the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, to discuss the project’s history and goals. She also met with several influential figures in the realm of education, including Dr. Dudley Flood, from the Flood Center for Education, Equity, and Opportunity

Additionally, she met with Dr. Michelle Ellis, a Kenan Fellow alum and founder of the STEM Educators for Equity and Diversity (SEED) Fellows; and Eugenia Floyd, the 2021 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year.  

“Connecting with these folks gives me hope that so many selfless individuals are working to support our students and our teachers. I will strive to do whatever it takes to continue this work, especially now as I move into the new academic year.” 

Kenan Fellow Emily Lahr

As a part of her fellowship, Lahr attended the Zero Barriers in STEM Education program at the Smithsonian Science Education Center in Washington, D.C. She was selected to serve as the science teacher representative on a team to integrate zero barriers and strategies to increase access to STEM learning for all students in North Carolina and support teachers in implementing these strategies. 

Other team members include: Dr. Patrick Miller, retired superintendent of Greene County Schools; Dr. Michele Handley, director of Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf; Bruce Middleton, Lahr’s mentor and director of STEM East; and Todd Borghesani of NC East Alliance-Work Based Learning and Industry Training. 

“These experiences and meetings have been transformative and engaging,” Lahr said. “I have been increasingly reflective on my teaching practice and personal experiences as a result of this internship, and as a result, have found a renewed passion for my purpose in the classroom.”


Beverly Owens, a 2021-22 Kenan Fellow, teaches 11th-grade chemistry at Cleveland Early College High School in Cleveland County Schools. She is a recipient of the 2019 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award for Science and Mathematics Teachers, a Fulbright Scholar, a Nat Geo Certified Educator and a North Carolina Earth Science Teacher of the Year.