Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP)

epfp west gear up appstate

2019 EPFP Fellows spend a fruitful day at the Washington Policy Seminar hill meeting with NC Senator Thom Tillis' Legislative Correspondent.

The application for the 2023-2024 fellowship is now open!

Have questions? Contact your North Carolina EPFP Coordinators, Corinne Smith ( or Sara Howell (

Learn More about our Current Fellows

Are you curious to know more about EPFP?  A huge part of the EPFP experience, and one of our 3 pillars, is networking with the other fellows in the cohort.  They come from all over the state with wide-ranging experiences that deepen the conversations and strengthen our learning.  Learn more about our 2022-2023 cohort here.

The North Carolina EPFP Program

EPFP is provided in partnership with Appalachian GEAR UP, the Public School Forum of NC, and the Institute for Educational Leadership. Since 1979, the North Carolina EPFP has graduated over 800 fellows, making it one of the largest EPFP sites in the country.  A pillar program for education policy in North Carolina, EPFP has grown and adapted, and continues to engage education leaders, for over 40 years. Built around the three pillars of leadership, policy, and networking, fellows will come together from across the state to learn the history of education policy in North Carolina, how it still impacts education systems today, and the principles of advocacy that can be used to improve education policy for a better future.  Scheduled sessions give fellows an opportunity to engage in a variety of discussion topics with legislators, policy makers, and other fellows representing all areas of our state, bringing a new awareness of equity in education throughout.  With two culminating events in Washington, DC and Raleigh, NC, fellows will have the opportunity to put everything they've learned into practice and begin making a plan for continued advocacy work going forward.  Consistently, fellows graduate from EPFP citing the transformative experience as one of the best professional development experiences of their career. We hope you'll consider applying!


In 2014, the GEAR UP grant was awarded to Appalachian State University and allowed EPFP to expand and provide better access to the western region of North Carolina.  Participants from Appalachian GEAR UP districts receive funding to cover the cost of participation.  Those districts include Alleghany, Ashe, Burke, Wilkes, Watauga, Yancey, Madison, Graham, Clay, Swain. GEAR UP also offers funding opportunities to fellows from the following institutions of higher education; Appalachian State University, UNC Asheville, Asheville Buncombe-Technical Community College, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, Mayland Community College, Southwestern Community College, Tri-County Community College, Western Piedmont Community College, and Wilkes Community College.

Who are the EPFP Fellows?

Fellows are professionals at a stage where they are poised to make an impact on education. They are diverse by race and ethnicity, professional preparation and experience, role, and employing organization. Fellows are selected through an application process and include teachers, principals, superintendents, local and state agency representatives, higher education faculty and administration, non profit and for profit professionals, general purpose government workers, national and state association liasions, and leaders from complementary sectors such as business, health, social services, labor, justice etc.

EPFP Benefits Include

  • A 9 month professional development program
  • Building capacity from a foundation of equity and action-oriented projects
  • Learning about processes and outcomes of policy making and implementation at local, national, and state levels
  • Expanding the knowledge, skills, and practices of leaders able to effect positive change
  • Developing relationships with diverse colleagues to collaborate with education professionals across the state
  • Interactive regional leadership forums and the national Washington Policy Seminar
  • Joining a lifelong professional network of 9,500 alumni in all 50 states
  • Access to a professional program endorsed by premier policy and leadership institutions
  • Better informed, more skillful employees
  • Employees who are prepared to assume greater leadership responsibilities and make contributions to equitable public policy and practice
  • Expanded professional networks
  • Opportunity to learn about and practice applying education advocacy principles

Tentative 2022-23 Schedule

Fall Dates:

  • Early September: EPFP Orientation (Asynchronous, virtual)
  • Virtual Fall Meeting: Thursday, September 21st, 2023 (3-5PM)
  • Virtual Fall Meeting: Thursday, October 19th, 2023 (3-5PM)
  • Virtual Fall Meeting: Thursday, November 16th, 2023 (3-5PM)
  • Winter Retreat: Thurs/Fri, November 30-December 1, 2023 (tentatively in-person in Blowing Rock, NC)

Spring Dates:

  • Virtual Spring Meeting: Thursday, January 18th, 2024 (3-5PM)
  • Virtual Spring Meeting: Thursday, February 15th, 2024 (3-5PM)
  • Washington Policy Seminar: March  2024 (exact dates TBD)
  • NC Legislative Day/EPFP Graduation: Late April/Early May TBD (in-person in Raleigh, NC)


“How serendipitous it was to have the privilege of being an EPFP member during a year of unprecedented intersections in politics, healthcare, education, and civil rights! To study the history and current events of our country and state would have been powerful enough for me in any other year. However, to be able to collectively reflect on and corporately process such events through the lenses of current issues of equity and inequality THIS year has been life changing. I not only feel empowered to speak up about such issues in my professional and personal life, but I also now know how to do so! This program has opened my eyes to the struggles around me, the strength within me, and the strategies ahead of me that I will use to fuel my passion for positive change in education and beyond!” 

         -2021 EPFP Graduate

"My EPFP experience provided eye-opening insight into NC history and legislation that created the foundation for NC Education;  I have a new lense for the work that I do and an invaluable network of colleaugues across the state to work with. High recommend EPFP to every NC Educator!"

         -2019-2020 EPFP Graduate

"I understand much more now about how education policy works and feel confident about advocating for good education policy in the future."

         -2017-2018 EPFP Graduate

"EPFP gave me the opportunity to meet amazing people, gain valuable experience, and empowered me to take steps to positively impact our students. This is a great program, and I highly recommend it to anyone in the field of education!"

       - 2018-2019 EPFP Graduate

"EPFP has been the best professional development experience of my career!"

       - 2017-2018 EPFP Graduate 

The National EPFP Program

Coordinated at the national level by the Institute for Educational Leadership, EPFP's mission is to engage a diverse and collaborative community of strategic leaders to promote equitable education policy. EPFP combines regular meetings and activities specific to each state-based site program with events of national scope to provide an enriching experience for more than 300 Fellows each year. We know that there is a great need for spaces where people in different roles, in different organizations, and of different persuasions can explore challenging education issues together. We also know that individuals “in the trenches” need opportunities to develop their leadership capacities. EPFP is the vehicle to meet that need. 

The program includes several sites  that participate in regional leadership forums, State Capitol Hill Days, policy projects, and all Fellows attend the Washington Policy Seminar, EPFP's national conference, in Washington, DC. EPFP provides a unique professional development laboratory in which Fellows apply new insights and practice new skills. The program content explores three core elements of professional development – policy, leadership, and networking – which are built on a foundation of equity:

  • Fellows learn about the processes and outcomes of policy making and implementation at local, national, and state levels.
  • Fellows develop and expand the knowledge, skills, and practices of leaders able to effect positive change.
  • Fellows develop relationships with diverse colleagues and expand their ability to collaborate with others.

Apply to the 2023-2024 cohort!

Application now open!  

Have questions? Contact your North Carolina EPFP Coordinators, Corinne Smith ( or Sara Howell (