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2023 Ron McKinley Award Winners

Celebrating and honoring this year's race equity champions

Each year, MnEEP identifies and confers a Ron McKinley, All My Relations- Equity in Action Award to true warriors for racial justice and education equity who work to impact systems, structures, and cultures to undo systemic racism and colonial settler harm in education.

Ron was a proud American Indian and MnEEP’s founder in the late 1980s. He spent his career advancing educational opportunities for Indigenous, Black, brown, and Asian students. He believed in cross-racial/cultural collective action and solidarity.

“All My Relations” is a powerful expression used by the many nations of American Indians to express the interconnectedness and oneness of humanity.

These awardees are people who have been driven by a desire to transcend their immediate community of people to connect with others different from themselves in creating an education reality that provides for equitable and quality opportunities for all people.

On December 13th, at our Annual Event, MnEEP honored these esteemed race equity champions. 

We are grateful for the dedication and racial justice work of 2023’s Ron McKinley “All My Relations” winners.

Dr. Bernadeia Johnson 

Dr. Bernadeia Johnson, Associate Professor at Minnesota State University, Mankato, in the Department of Educational Leadership, has over 40 years in education ranging from teaching fifth grade to Deputy Superintendent of the Memphis City Schools and later Superintendent of the Minneapolis Public Schools. 

Bernadeia earned her B.S. From Alabama A&M University, her master’s from St. Thomas University, and her principal license and doctorate from the University of Minnesota. Johnson currently teaches and conducts research dedicated to understanding the lived experiences of the African American school and district leaders. 

Bernadeia is a frequent testifier at the Minnesota Legislature on Solutions not Suspensions. She has also testified on the Read Act to promote literacy instruction in schools.  She has presented locally and nationally on her work to introduce School-based Mental health into the Minneapolis Public Schools. Dr. Johnson is a National Board-Certified teacher. She serves on local and national boards, including as the board chair of MnEEP. She is the proud grandmother of Bennett and Vincent.

Dr. Rose Wan-Mui Chu

Dr. Rose Wan-Mui Chu has dedicated her professional life to the tireless pursuit of education equity and excellence. A first-generation immigrant from Hong Kong and first-generation college graduate, her original engineering background and experience at Honeywell, coupled with her most honored role as a classroom teacher at Plymouth Youth Center and Minneapolis Public Schools, have continued to ground her life’s work in educational reform and transformation.

Rose is a professor emerita of Urban Education at Metropolitan State University and a former assistant commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Education. She is an experienced educator and consultant with a diverse professional portfolio centered on equity and justice, and advancing systems change. 

In addition, Rose is the visionary and project lead for the Elevate Teaching movement to transform how we talk about, view, and relate to the teaching profession to restore the honor and prestige the profession deserves in our society, starting with Minnesota. Rose has served as a school board director at Roseville Area Schools since January 2020 and is a 2022 Bush Fellow.

Senator Omar Fateh

Senator Omar Fateh was first elected to the Minnesota Senate in 2021. He represents Senate District 62, which covers the community of South Minneapolis.

Fateh is the son of hard-working immigrant parents from Somalia. He has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and is an Ambassador with Change of the Narrative and a mentor with Tusaalo Mentoring. He is also active with local organizations and initiatives such as Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, VoteYes4Kids, 15Now, Minnesota Association of Public Employees, and the DFL Somali Caucus. Fateh and his wife, Kaltum Mohamed, currently rent an apartment in the Phillips neighborhood. 

Sen. Fateh is chair of the Higher Education Committee and serves on the Human Services Committee and State and Local Government and Veterans Committee.

Ethan Neerdaels

Ethan Neerdaels, Bdewakantunwan Dakota, is a graduate of the University of Minnesota in American Indian Studies and Dakota Language programs. 

He coordinates the Indian Education program at Osseo Area Schools and serves as the Executive Director of Dakhóta Iápi Okhódakičhiye, a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to reversing the trend of language loss and raising future generations of Dakota speakers.

Ethan has been a guest speaker and presenter throughout the state and partners with the Minnesota Humanities Center as a facilitator for the Learning from Place: Bdote experiential workshop that brings participants to sites of great significance to Dakota people in the Twin Cities.

Dr. Fernando Rodriguez

Dr. Fernando “Fernie” Rodriguez is a first-generation, Mexican American, trans-feminine practitioner-scholar in higher education with a career that spans 15+ years’ service across nine academic institutions. 

Currently, Fernie serves as Director of the Circle of Indigenous Nations and Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. 

Fernie’s breadth of experience includes various areas including residential life, student leadership and engagement, strategic planning, multicultural student success as well as scholarly work focused on academic success of first-generation students and students from underrepresented communities.

MnEEP Staff

Led by People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) thought leaders and experts, MnEEP uses a race equity lens to develop and advance networks, practices, research, and policies to dismantle racism in education and build a more just, equitable society.

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