2022-23 Profiles in Diversity: Dr. Kristen Cuthrell

Professor, Elementary Education

Director, Rural Education Institute


  • I have lived in… Pensacola, FL; New Bern, NC; Durham, NC; Salem, Massachusetts; Magnolia, Delaware, and Grimesland, NC- all up and down the east coast- small and big places, military and civilian spots
  • My favorite teacher is… Miss Little- my kindergarten teacher at Navy Point Elementary, Home of the Blue Angels
  • My favorite place to eat or favorite food to eat / prepare is… Hershey chocolate bars- they remind me of how my daughter Hannah used to sneak Hershey bars from our s’more stash at home.. for years, we kept finding Hershey wrappers stuffed everywhere, even after she was gone. Hershey bars make me smile and remind me to enjoy the little things.
  • What are some cultural experiences that make you who you are? Growing up, we were either in church or at the community sports field. I was one of 5 kids at home- right in the middle- I have one of everything- a big brother/sister and a little brother/sister. Community and family gatherings is what we did. I grew up in a military town in Florida and moved to eastern NC during high school. When we moved to eastern NC in high school, I learned more about life in a small town. My husband and I met at New Bern High. We did military life for a bit too. And now our kids have enjoyed family gatherings and church a little differently- when they were little, we would do big family Easter Egg hunt out in the country on the family land- in the mud on four-wheelers. The muddier, the better. We still spend quite a bit of time on ball fields and courts across ENC.

How do your beliefs about diversity, social justice, and equity manifest themselves in your research, teaching, advocacy and/or service?

I’ve been at ECU since 2005. It was a homecoming for me and my family as welcomed our oldest daughter into the world. Since returning to ENC, my family grew- we welcomed 2 more little ones.  It also experienced most likely the hardest thing we ever will face- we buried our 10 year old daughter. What I have learned through tragedy is the community in ENC is caring, relentless and resilient.  Good eventually can come from bad.  So while I have lived out things in my family, I have become more ardent in my professional life of research, teaching and service.  Life is short and I know my energy and time must work towards supporting our schools and communities in ENC- in elevating voices and building opportunities together for our children. All of my teaching, research, and service is connected to forefronting the unique and diverse voices of ENC and to building networks of collaboration within and among. My positionality heavily influences how I have navigated this work: My experiences as a white, faith reliant, CIS woman finishing high school in a rural area, returning to the same rural community through marriage to raise a family drives my commitment to elevating voices of our beautifully diverse-in all ways- rural families and communities while examining and advocating the elimination of educational inequities. 

Share with us an example of that kind of work that you are proud of or committed to.

edPIRATE, CARE Corps, Race & Rurality Micro-credential, Rural Cultural Wealth Framework, Co-Teaching and Centering Equity, AERA Advancing Equity in Rural Education Panel Series, Theory & Practice in Rural Education

Whose work or research do you draw on to inform or support your work in areas of diversity, social justice, and equity?

The last few years, I have been working with colleagues at ECU (former and current) and BIPOC educators in ENC to elevate voices in our rural and beautifully diverse region. I’ve been leaning into the work of Cochran-Smith, Gorski, and my incredibly brilliant colleagues/collaborators in ENC. My hope is that we create spaces for everyone to be their authentic selves and feel accepted and supported.

Who are your collaborators in this work? Who – in the field, at ECU, and/or in the College of Education – also does diversity and equity work that you respect?

I am a collaborative person at my core so I have many I could list.  For the moment, I will list my amazing colleagues in REI who I have had the opportunity to learn from and lead with these last 6 years through our funded service and research projects: Loni Crumb (IDP), Janeé Avent Harris (IDP/DEI), Allison Crowe (IDP), Martin Reardon (LEED), Robbie Quinn (Art Education), Laura Levi Altstaedter (Foreign Lang), Amy Swain (SEFR), Bethany McKissick (SEFR), Sheresa Blanchard (BK), Matt Militello (LEED), Karen Jones (LEED), Jenni Gallagher (LEHE), Christy Howard (LEHE), Angela Novak (ELMID), Bonnie Glass (MSITE), Maureen Grady (MSITE), Ariane Peralta (Biology), Jeannie Golden (PSYCH), Val DeBellis (Math), Monisha Atkinson (OEP), Nicole Moore (OEP), Nicole Tripp (OEP), Julia Lynch (UNC-Wilmington), Carrie Morris (edPIRATE), Shawnda Cherry (edPIRATE), Larry Hodgkins (LEED), Jerry Johnson (LEED), Diane Kester (retired IDP), Jenn Williams (ELMID), Mitzi Pestaner (CON), Nichelle Shuck (CARE Corps), Patricia Hopkins (CARE Corps), Rebecca Houston (CARE Corps), Maya Hart (CARE Corps)- to name just a few. Add in many, many ENC rural educator champions like Tevis Harris, James Knight, Monique Cannon, LaFreda Sawyer, LaKesia Boone, amazing school district leaders across Lenoir, Greene, Elizabeth-City Pasquotank, Pitt, Bertie, Tyrrell, Hyde, Gates, Jones, Craven, and determined undergraduate and graduate students such as Isaiah Gorham, Taylor Parrish, Elizbeth Japczyk Schuler, Jasmine Garland McKinney, Hannah Grant, Emily Cheney, Arleth Medal, Christina Caldwell. I also want to include my former ECU colleagues who I continue to grow with in our work nationally: Christina Tschida (Appalachian State), Liz Fogarty (University of St Thomas), Joy Stapleton (Winthrop University), Diana Lys (UNC-Chapel Hill), Ann Bullock (Elon University).

Citations of Work:

Vol. 11 No. 2 (2021): Theory & Practice in Rural Education: Special Issue on Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity in Rural Schools and Communities


Project edPIRATE (Educator Pipeline In Rural Action for Teaching Equity)


CARE Corps (Collaborative Action in Rural Education)


Using Data to Improve Teacher Education: Moving Evidence into Action


Crumb, L., Chambers, C., Azano, A., Hands, A., Cuthrell, K., & Avent, M. (2022). Rural Cultural Wealth: Dismantling deficit ideologies of rurality. Journal for Multicultural Education. https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/JME-06-2022-0076/full/html

Race & Rurality Micro-Credentials


Coming soon:

Tschida, C., Fogarty, E., Cuthrell, K., Stapleton, J., Lys, D., & Bullock, A. (June 2023). Co-Teaching in Teacher Education: Centering Equity. Teachers College Press.