Who We Are

The Center on the Developing Child is a multidisciplinary team committed to driving science-based innovation in policy and practice. Learn about our senior leadership team, staff, affiliated faculty, and senior fellows.

Center Director

Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D.

Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., is the Julius B. Richmond FAMRI Professor of Child Health and Development at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard Graduate School of Education; Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital; and Director of the university-wide Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.

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Senior Leadership Team

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Maribel Blanco

Maribel Blanco is the Center on the Developing Child’s Chief Financial Officer and Director of Administration. She is responsible for the active stewardship and efficient management of the financial, IT, human resources, and administrative services of the Center.

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Charles E. Carter

Charles E. Carter, Ph.D., LICSW, is Deputy Director and Chief Strategy Officer of the Center on the Developing Child. He is responsible for leading the creation of a strategy that leverages the Center’s R&D platform to build and scale an innovation movement beyond the Center.

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Gillian A. Najarian

Gillian Najarian is Managing Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University and was among the Center’s founders in July 2006. She is Chief Operating Officer for the Center, responsible for overseeing and coordinating Center-wide governance issues, including resource assessment and strategic planning around all new initiatives as well as fundraising and donor relations, board management, faculty development, partnership development, and staff deployment and development.

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Al Race

Al Race is Deputy Director and Chief Knowledge Officer at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. His focus is on how to use the knowledge generated by the Center’s work, internally and externally, in order to transform the landscape in which science-based innovation for children and families facing adversity can thrive and grow.

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Tassy Warren

Tassy Warren is the Chief Program Officer at the Center on the Developing Child. She is responsible for the Center’s work to build an R&D platform, which includes efforts to conduct and align new research, generate and test new ideas, and connect a multidimensional learning community.

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Staff

  • Julie Asher, Senior Project Manager

    Julie Asher joined the Center in January 2013 as Senior Project Manager for the Frontiers of Innovation initiative. Julie has extensive non-profit and public sector experience in early childhood and child welfare services. Immediately prior to joining the Center, she worked as a senior program officer at the Robin Hood Foundation, overseeing early childhood and youth grants to non-profits in New York City. She earned her bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies from Cornell University and her master’s degree in public policy from the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley.

  • Beth Balaban, Multimedia Producer

    Beth Balaban joined the Center as its Multimedia Producer in January 2015. She creates content in a variety of multimedia formats, including video, to tell stories of the Center’s ongoing work. Beyond the Center, Beth has traveled around the world as a documentary filmmaker for several films and short-form, nonfiction pieces. She received her MFA in media arts from Emerson College.

  • Nicole Brown, Project Manager, Donor Relations

    Nicole Brown joined the Center in January 2011 and is the Project Manager of Donor Relations. Nicole’s portfolio of donor relations includes outreach, donor research and tracking, the production of development materials, and writing progress reports and funding applications. Nicole received her bachelor’s degree from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College (now Randolph College).

  • James Cairns, Director, International Programs and Shared Learning

    James Cairns is the Center’s Director of International Programs and Shared Learning. In this role, he provides strategic oversight to the Center’s international portfolio, and is responsible for developing a learning community across the range of activities and partnerships in which the Center is engaged. Prior to joining the Center, Jim served as the Director of Programs at the World Conference of Religions for Peace, and as Director of the Advocacy and Action for Children Program. He holds master’s degrees in international relations and theology from Yale University and a bachelor’s degree in government from Harvard University.

  • Susan Crowley, Project Manager

    Susan Crowley joined the Center in April 2011 as Project Manager for the Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) initiative, bringing extensive management experience in health care, early education, and university settings. She works with the FOI team and its partners to develop and test innovative strategies aimed at decreasing barriers to learning, particularly focusing on managing the FOI-sponsored working groups, the Innovation by Design process, and links to policy work. She earned a B.S. in nursing from Boston University and an M.P.A. from Harvard Kennedy School.

  • Alison Driesch, Event Manager and Project Lead for ELP

    Alison Driesch is the Event Manager at the Center on the Developing Child. She supports major meetings and events for all of the Center’s projects and serves as the Project Lead for the Executive Leadership Program in Early Childhood Development. Previously, she worked for Enterprise Community Partners, organizing a broad range of meetings and national conferences. Alison received her B.S. in marketing from Roger Williams University.

  • Michelle Foley, Senior Project Manager

    Michelle Foley is Senior Project Manager supporting the Center’s strategy of conducting and aligning new research, and the focus of her portfolio is centered around the JPB Research Network on Toxic Stress. She joined the Center in April 2013. Prior to joining the Center, she worked as a Program Manager for Harvard Catalyst, the Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center, overseeing a portfolio of courses and programs within Catalyst’s Education Program. Michelle holds a B.S. in nutrition and dietetics from Simmons College and an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

  • Becky Jaques, Director, Innovation Strategies

    Becky Jaques is the Center’s Director of Innovation Strategies. In this role, she provides strategic leadership to develop, oversee, and assess a portfolio of projects that advance the Center’s strategic priority of designing and testing new ideas across existing and emerging Center projects and innovation clusters. Previously, she worked at the Council on Competitiveness as a research associate for global initiatives. She also worked in Sydney, Australia, for ING DIRECT bank in marketing. Becky received her B.S. in business administration from Miami University and her Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

  • Lisa Haidar, Project Manager, Leadership Programs and Initiatives

    Lisa Haidar joined the Center in August 2012. As a Project Manager, she provides leadership for meaningful interdisciplinary and collaborative student learning opportunities. Lisa has worked in publishing, state government, and alumnae relations, and has extensive experience in volunteer leadership and training. She holds a B.A. in English from Bates College, and an M.S. in mass communication from Boston University.

  • Kristen Holmstrand, Senior Communications Manager

    Kristen Holmstrand joined the Center in June 2015 as a Senior Communications Manager. In this role, she leads the Center’s content strategy, oversees the generation of content across platforms, and manages the Center’s media relations strategy and efforts. Kristen has worked in education, publishing, nonprofit research, and consulting organizations, and has extensive writing, editing, and proofreading experience. Kristen holds a B.A. in religion from Wellesley College.

  • Susan Levene, Project Manager

    Susan Levene joined the Center in April 2011 as Project Manager for the Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) initiative, bringing extensive experience in interdisciplinary collaborations for educational projects and documentary films. She works with the FOI team and its partners to develop and test innovative strategies aimed at decreasing barriers to learning, particularly focusing on managing idea-focused working groups, dynamic mapping of the early childhood field and FOI’s evaluation. She earned a B.A. in history from Cornell University.

  • Licong Liu, Assistant Director of Finance

    Licong Liu joined the Center in January 2013 as Assistant Director of Finance. Previously, he worked at Harvard Medical School as a finance and research administrator for the department of systems biology. He also worked at Boston Medical Center as a grant reviewer in the central office. Li received his B.S. in economics and psychology from the University of Toronto.

  • Theresa Lungu, Administrative Assistant

    Theresa Lungu serves as Administrative Assistant, having joined the Center in December 2012. In this role, she provides support to the members of the Senior Management Team as well as overall operations support for the office. Previously, Theresa worked at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and as an executive assistant in the private sector in Zambia. Theresa received her B.A. in communications from Boston College.

  • Cindy Martell, Financial and Administrative Coordinator

    Cindy Martell joined the Center in March 2013 and currently serves as the Financial and Administrative Coordinator. In her financial role, she coordinates the Center’s contracts and agreements, ensuring all financial reports reflect up-to-date commitments. In her administrative role, Cindy is the first point of contact for all office management and ensures that the Center runs smoothly, which includes handling IT and building issues and coordinating staff events. Cindy formerly worked at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s corporate headquarters coordinating volunteer management and events. Cindy earned her A.S. with honors in business management/hospitality from Middlesex Community College.

  • Dan McLaughlin, Senior Project Coordinator

    Dan McLaughlin joined the Center in December 2013. As a Senior Project Coordinator, he provides support for the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child and for the Center’s international work, both in Brazil and across countries as part of Saving Brains. Previously, he worked as a Program Coordinator at Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education. Dan received his B.A. in government from Wesleyan University.

  • Jess Nelson, Senior Project Coordinator

    Jess Nelson joined the Center in September 2014 and is a Senior Project Coordinator with the Frontiers of Innovation initiative. Previously, she worked as a teacher in a variety of settings and as a program coordinator at Shanti, Multifaith Works in Washington state. Jess received her master’s degree in child development from Tufts University.

  • Kent Neumann, Financial Specialist

    Kent Neumann joined the Center in August 2008. In his role as Financial Specialist, he is responsible for monitoring and reconciling Center accounts; processing invoices, travel and other reimbursements; managing student payroll; and preparing consultant agreements. He also assists with the yearly budget and tracks spending. Kent received his B.A. in communications from the University of New Hampshire.

  • Mike Pastore, Assistant Director, Digital Strategy and Technology

    Mike Pastore serves as Assistant Director, Digital Strategy and Technology, having joined the Center in April 2008. He oversees the development, implementation, and evaluation of the Center’s digital strategy for its online presence and information technology services. Mike received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University and his master’s degree in information technology, with a concentration in digital media and instructional design, from Harvard University Extension School.

  • Sally Pfitzer, Senior Project Coordinator

    Sally Pfitzer joined the Center in September 2013. As a Senior Project Coordinator, Sally supports the Frontiers of Innovation learning community, which includes people and organizations united by a common vision, engaged in shared learning to accelerate innovation, promoting early adoption of promising strategies, and testing pathways to impact at scale. She has experience as a research assistant in numerous neuropsychology labs and science museums, and as an educator working with young children both domestically and globally. Sally received a B.A. in psychology from Boston University and has a master’s degree in child development from Tufts University.

  • Melissa Rivard, Senior Project Manager

    Melissa Rivard is Senior Project Manager on the Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) initiative, supporting the Center’s strategy for creating and testing new innovations. She is the project lead for the Washington and Georgia state innovation clusters, in addition to supporting the addition of new projects to the Center’s FOI portfolio. Melissa joined the Center in December 2015. Prior to coming to the Center, she worked at Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education as a Project Manager and Pedagogical Documentation Specialist for Making Learning Visible—a long-term collaboration between early childhood educators in Reggio Emilia, researchers and educators from the U.S.—and other projects. Melissa holds a B.A. from the University of Minnesota and an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education

  • Yaimani Rivera, Executive Assistant to Dr. Jack P. Shonkoff

    Yaimani Rivera joined the Center in May 2012 as the executive assistant to Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D. In addition to performing administrative tasks such as scheduling, making travel arrangements, and drafting correspondence, she acts as the first public point of contact for the Center and provides customer service for a variety of relationships both within and outside of the University. Yaimani formerly worked in production roles at WBZ-TV and Liz Walker Journey Productions. She has a B.A. in arts in communication from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

  • Evan Roth-Howe, Project Manager

    Evan Roth-Howe joined the Center in April 2015 as Project Manager for the Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) initiative, and supports the initiative’s Latin American portfolio. He previously worked with a variety of development and educational organizations to design and implement early childhood development interventions in India, Rwanda, and the U.S. Evan is a licensed Early Intervention Specialist and holds M.A. degrees in child development from Tufts University and international development from The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

  • Alyssa Swander, Communications Manager

    Alyssa Swander joined the Center in December 2010. As Communications Manager, she is responsible for developing and implementing a communications strategy for the Center’s R&D platform with a particular focus on the Frontiers of Innovation projects aimed at creating and testing new ideas to achieve breakthrough impacts. Alyssa received her Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is also a 2006 graduate of Dartmouth College, where she majored in English and minored in education.

  • Tien Ung, Director, Leadership Programs and Initiatives

    Tien Ung is Director of Leadership Programs and Initiatives, the Center’s vehicle for thought leadership and collective action. In this role, she sets the strategic direction of a leadership platform that will build and perpetuate intentional stewardship toward science-based innovation in service of breakthrough outcomes for children facing adversity. Tien has close to 25 years of experience as a practitioner-scholar and has worked across several industries, including higher education, government, and non-profit organizations. Tien has a Ph.D. in social work from Boston College Graduate School of Social Work (BCGSSW), a Masters of Social Work also from BCGSSW, and a B.A. in psychology from Brandeis University.

  • Corey Zimmerman, Senior Project Manager, Policy and Systems Strategy Lead

    Corey Zimmerman joined the Center in January 2015. As a Senior Project Manager for the Frontiers of Innovation initiative, she manages emerging innovation clusters that are focused on rapid-cycle learning within large public systems and interventions operating at scale. She is also involved in finding ways to mobilize the science to create meaningful change in policy and practice. Corey brings to this work extensive experience advocating and shaping social policy on behalf of young children and families. Previously, she was the Assistant Vice President for Healthy Child Development at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. Prior to that, she was the Director of Strategic Planning and Analysis for the MA Dept. of Early Education and Care, and prior to that the Research and Policy Director at Nurtury, Inc. Corey received her B.A. in Public Policy Analysis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her Ed.M. in Human Development and Psychology from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Affiliated Faculty

In keeping with the Center’s university-wide mandate to draw upon the intellectual resources across the campus, faculty members from most of the University’s schools have been engaged to help build the Center’s agenda.

View Our Affiliated Faculty

Senior Fellows

Our multidisciplinary senior fellows collaborate with our staff and bring their diverse areas of expertise to our shared vision of leveraging science to drive innovation in early childhood policy and practice.

  • Susan Nall Bales, Senior Fellow

    Susan Nall Bales, Senior Fellow at the Center on the Developing Child, is president of the nonprofit FrameWorks Institute, which conducts communications research on social issues. Her work with scholars from the social and cognitive sciences has led to the development of Strategic Frame Analysis™, a multi-method, multi-disciplinary approach to understanding public thinking. She has commissioned, written, and published numerous reports on how Americans view diverse issues such as child development, the environment, and foreign policy. A veteran communications strategist and issues campaigner, she has more than 30 years of experience researching, designing, implementing, and critiquing campaigns on social issues. She has served as a lecturer at Pitzer College and as a visiting scholar at The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. A graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, she earned an M.A. in literature and language from Middlebury College.

  • Steve Cohen, Senior Fellow

    Steve Cohen, a Senior Fellow at the Center on the Developing Child, is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Social Policy, where he leads CSSP’s partnership with the Center, with a particular focus on helping public systems take up emerging knowledge about child development to improve policy and practice. Steve was previously vice president and chief program officer of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, where he worked to reform child welfare systems facing class action litigation. Earlier in his career, Steve served as associate executive director of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, a large human services agency in New York City. He also held senior positions in child welfare and juvenile justice in New York City government.

  • Nathaniel Foote, Senior Fellow

    Nathaniel Foote, J.D, M.B.A., a Senior Fellow at the Center, is a director of the TruePoint Center for Higher Ambition Leadership. A co-author of the recent book, Higher Ambition: How Great Leaders Create Economic and Social Value, he has helped clients in a wide range of settings to build more effective institutions that achieve objectives for accelerated growth, increased innovation, and improved performance for all stakeholders. Since 2009, Nathaniel has worked closely with the Center on the Developing Child as part of the Frontiers of Innovation Initiative. Nathaniel was with McKinsey & Company for 19 years, where he was a partner and leader of McKinsey’s Organization Design practice, and had global responsibility for the effectiveness of McKinsey’s communities of practice. He received an M.B.A. degree from Harvard Business School, where he was a Baker Scholar, and a J.D. degree from Harvard Law School, magna cum laude. He attended the University of Cambridge as the Fiske Scholar, after receiving his B.A. degree from Harvard.

  • Pat Levitt, Senior Fellow

    Pat Levitt, Ph.D., a Senior Fellow at the Center on the Developing Child, is also the science director of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, an initiative of the Center. He is Provost Professor and W. M. Keck Chair in Neurogenetics at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, and Director of the Developmental Neurogenetics Program of the Institute for the Developing Mind at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. His research focuses on the development of brain architecture that controls learning and emotional and social behavior in children. Pat is involved in both clinical genetics and basic research studies that have a long-term goal of understanding the biological basis of neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia, and how genes and the environment (prenatal or early postnatal) together influence typical and atypical development. Pat received his undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago, his Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of California, San Diego, and he completed a postdoctoral fellowship in neuroscience at Yale University.

  • James M. Radner, Senior Fellow

    James M. Radner, M.Phil., a Senior Fellow at the Center, is an assistant professor in the School of Public Policy & Governance at the University of Toronto (Canada), where he is the executive director and co-founder of The Boreal Institute for Civil Society. He is also a senior fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, where he directs the International Program on Social Entrepreneurship and Civil Society. Since 2009, Jamie has worked closely with the Center on the Developing Child as part of the Frontiers of Innovation initiative. His teaching and action research concern issues of domestic and international social and economic development, and uses of quantitative and qualitative tools to improve the effectiveness of social institutions. He has wide experience in civil society and development, including positions at community health, education, and economic development organizations, as well as program and management work at Amnesty International U.S.A., and consulting assignments for governments, aid institutions, businesses, and civic organizations. Previously, Jamie was a senior advisor at Hogan & Hartson LLP in Washington, DC. He earned a B.A. from Harvard University, an M.Phil. from the University of Cambridge, and completed the P.M.D. at Harvard Business School.

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