Rachel White is passionate about issues of power, voice, and inclusion in education policy making and implementation. Her research focuses on whose voices are heard in policy spaces, and how decisions made by political and educational leaders at the school, district, and state level impact both teachers’ and students’ educational experiences.
Now, White has received a prestigious accolade in her young career, the Jack A. Culbertson Early Career Award from the University Council for Education Administration (UCEA). Named for the organization’s long-serving director, the Culbertson Award is presented yearly to an outstanding junior educational leadership professor to recognize their significant contributions to the field of educational leadership. Eligible nominees must be professors with 6 years or fewer, serving in a UCEA affiliated university.
“It’s a great honor to be selected as a recipient of the Jack A. Culbertson Award,” said White. “I’m grateful for the incredible mentors and colleagues across the nation who contributed to my nomination. It’s truly a privilege to be in this position where I’m empowered to be curious, push boundaries, listen to the voices of kids and educators, and build on my experience as a former school board member and high school cross country and track & field coach to attempt to build a body of work that can positively impact K-12 public school systems, leaders, educators, kids—and, ultimately, our democracy.”
White is an assistant professor in the department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences (CEHHS). She joined CEHHS in 2022.
Nominees for the Culbertson Award are selected from their outstanding contributions to innovation, originality, potential impact, and more in their early body of academic work. In fact, White has been published in numerous journals, including Educational Administration Quarterly, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Leadership & Policy in Schools, Journal of School Leadership, Teachers College Record, and Kappan.
While White has appeared in several academic publications, she also contributes to a number of well-received stories in general media as well, including Education Week, The Conversation and Ed Surge. She also takes strides to make her research findings accessible to broader audiences using easy-to-easy-to-understand infographics.
Recently, she was named to a United States Department of Education Advisory Committee to provide advice and recommendations concerning the educational needs in the Appalachian region and how those needs can be most effectively addressed. Her committee will submit a report in six months to U.S. Secretary of Education, Dr. Miguel Cardona.
“It’s not lost on me that there has never been a day where I have woken up and was not excited to do this work,” said White. “This award pushes me to not let up and only fuels my passion to engage in rigorous, robust, and—most importantly—policy- and practice-relevant scholarship and outreach. As I reflect on prior award winners and the ways they have transformed the field of educational leadership, I’m humbled to be a part of that community.”
Through its eight departments and 12 centers, the UT Knoxville College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences enhances the quality of life for all through research, outreach, and practice. Find out more at cehhs.utk.edu