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 Center fellows and senior fellows.

Center Director

Headshot of Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D.

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; Research Staff at Massachusetts General Hospital; and Founding Director of the university-wide Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.

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Center Leadership Team

Melanie Berry, Psy.D.

Melanie Berry, PsyD., is the Director of the Pediatric Innovation Initiative, a national network of change agents committed to building new measurement capacity to enable providers, parents, and other caregivers to assess and address the effects of early adversity. She’s passionate about helping innovators in early childhood use cutting-edge science and data to promote better outcomes for young children facing adversity.

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Lindsey C. Burghardt, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP

Lindsey Burghardt, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, is the Chief Science Officer at the Center and a practicing primary care pediatrician in the community outside of Boston. At the Center, she identifies emerging areas of scientific interest and priority within the field of early childhood and creates a roadmap for the Center’s scientific agenda.   Lindsey synthesizes and translates the science behind ECD 2.0, including the impact of the built and natural environments on health and development. She works closely with the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child as well as with faculty across Harvard to build a multidisciplinary scientific understanding of early childhood and communicate that knowledge to a variety of audiences.

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James Cairns, M.A.

James Cairns is Senior Director for Strategic Engagements and Organizational Learning. He leads Center-wide efforts focused on understanding the early childhood ecosystem and the Center’s role in it, including developing strategic collaborations and partnerships and leading efforts to understand and measure the impact of our work. He also continues to provide strategic guidance to the Center’s international portfolio and partnerships.

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Rebecca Hansen, M.F.A.

As of April 2022, Rebecca Hansen serves as the Center’s Director of Communications. Rebecca leads the Center’s work to develop and implement innovative, impactful strategies for reaching target audiences in new ways through the Center’s widely respected, global platform for the effective communication of the translated science of child development. Rebecca brings to this work more than 15 years of experience in the science communications realm.

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Dominique Lightsey-Joseph, Ed.D., M.Ed.

Dominique Lightsey-Joseph, EdD, MEd, serves as the Director of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (EDIB) Strategy at the Center on the Developing Child. Dominique develops strategies and action plans to advance the Center’s commitment to fostering equitable outcomes in early childhood development. She also leads the co-creation of an organizational culture where all staff feel respected, included, and able to do their best.

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Licong Liu

Licong Liu

Licong Liu is the Center’s Director of Finance. He is responsible for guiding financial planning, policy, and processes at the Center, and for management and oversight of its budgets, contracts, and sponsored awards.

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Headshot of Gillian Najarian

Gillian A. Najarian, Ed.M.

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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Tassy Warren

Tassy Warren, Ed.M.

Tassy Warren is Deputy Director and Chief Strategy Officer at the Center on the Developing Child. She is responsible for leading the Center’s strategy development and ongoing refinement as well as working in collaboration with Center staff to implement our strategies effectively.

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Corey Zimmerman

Corey Zimmerman, Ed.M.

Corey Zimmerman is Chief Program Officer at the Center on the Developing Child. She provides strategic leadership to the Center’s work to help target audiences apply the science to their work and decision-making, including supporting ventures, programs, and systems to reach impact at scale for children and families facing adversity.

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Aeshna Badruzzaman

Aeshna Badruzzaman, Ph.D.

Aeshna Badruzzaman, Ph.D. serves as the Senior Project Manager for Instructional Design at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. As part of the Innovator Supports Team, she supports the Center’s efforts to bridge the research/action gap by providing a range of capacity-building experiences and developing curricula, programs, toolkits, and other learning experiences that make the science of early childhood actionable and support the field in increasing the impact and scalability of innovations.

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Arielle Black-Foley

Arielle Black-Foley is a Project Coordinator for the Finance, Equity and Administration team at the Center on the Developing Child. In her role at the Center, Arielle supports the Center’s Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (EDIB) goals and initiatives.

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Lauren Brulet, Project Coordinator

Lauren Brulet, M.S.

Lauren joined the Center in December 2019 and serves as a Senior Project Coordinator. In this role she provides administrative, logistical, and project support to several pediatric-facing initiatives that aim to promote the healthy development of all young children through empowerment of caregivers and pediatricians.

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Nighisti Dawit

Nighisti Dawit, M.Sc.

Nighisti is the Senior Project Manager, Policy Initiatives at the Center on the Developing Child. She previously worked for the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) where she led government relations activities, translated research findings for policy-oriented audiences, and managed the production and dissemination of a variety of policy products.

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Sally Pfitzer

Sally Gibney, M.A.

Sally Gibney is a Senior Project Manager at the Center. She provides leadership in developing and executing program strategy for catalyzing innovative practice change in pediatrics by leveraging new measurement capacity. Sally also contributes to the Center’s strategy for engaging key stakeholders in the global ECD field, particularly around the science of play.

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Amelia Johnson

Amelia Johnson is a Communications Specialist at the Center on the Developing Child. As part of our Communications team, Amelia plays a key role effectively communicating to target audiences about the research and work of the Center. Prior to joining the Center in September 2022, Amelia worked for Jumpstart for Young Children, a national early education non-profit.

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Madeleine Kim

As the Center’s Project Manager for Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning, Madeleine works to measure and describe the impact of the Center’s teams. Prior to joining the Center in 2022, Madeleine worked as part of the research team on a randomized control trial of parenting programs at Tulane University.

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Cindy Martell

Cindy Martell

Cindy Martell joined the Center in March 2013 and currently serves as the Executive Coordinator to Dr. Jack Shonkoff. In this role, Cindy skillfully manages Jack’s administrative duties plus is also responsible for assisting the Center’s leadership team as needed. Cindy is the office manager for the Center and ensures the smooth operation of the Center.

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Theresa Mooney

Theresa Kennelly Mooney

Theresa works to shape and implement communication strategies, manage outreach efforts, and foster engagement with the Center’s stakeholders. Theresa previously worked on the marketing and communications teams at Leadership for Educational Equity and Teach For America.

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Jessica Nelson

Jessica Nelson, M.A.

As Senior Project Manager; Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (EDIB), Jessica works closely with the Director of EDIB Strategy to advance EDIB initiatives at the Center. This includes leading staff capacity-building efforts, monitoring and assessing their impact, and identifying opportunities to strengthen EDIB in the Center’s science generation, communication, and application processes.

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Ayobami Olugbenga, Project Coordinator

Ayobami Olugbenga

Ayobami Olugbenga is a certified project management professional (PMP) whose career transverses the intersection of scientific research and practice, making science usable and translating theory to practice.

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Priscila Pumarada Urrutia

Priscila Pumarada Urrutia, Ed.M.

As the Assistant Director, Innovation Partnerships and Business Development, Priscila is responsible for the strategic direction and the implementation of the Center’s partnership and business development efforts for building innovator supports. Prior to joining the Center, Priscila worked at several education-focused nonprofits across the United States and Puerto Rico, and early in her career, she was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nicaragua.

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Melissa Rivard

Melissa Rivard, Ed.M.

As the Assistant Director, Innovation Strategies, Melissa is responsible for strategically directing and overseeing implementation of the Center’s efforts around building and delivering innovator supports, and leads several of the Center’s larger innovation initiatives.

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Nirka Rosa

As the Senior Project Manager of Administration and Culture, Nirka works in collaboration with the Director of EDIB Strategy and the Senior Project Manager of EDIB to foster a culture that is values-driven and focused on excellence. Nirka is the principal liaison between HGSE Human Resources and the Center, and as such, partners with staff at every level of the organization to help develop, implement, and manage a wide array of internal processes, procedures and activities that foster accountability, promote EDIB engagement, encourage professional development, and create transparent and equitable growth pathways for team members.

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Cameron Hawkins

Cameron Seymour-Hawkins

As a Communications Coordinator, Cameron plays a key role in making the research of the Center accessible and actionable for our target audiences. Prior to joining the Center in May 2023, Cameron worked in the Admissions Office at Harvard Extension School and provided audio/video support for the Innovation Team at Brattle Square Studio, both under the umbrella of Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education.

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Katie Sherman, Senior Project Coordinator

Katie Sherman

Katie Sherman is a Project Manager at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. Katie has been at the Center since 2017, and over her tenure has developed an increasingly diverse portfolio of work supporting both the Center’s measurement development work as well as internal standards for staff management, namely in the areas of project management and equitable hiring practices.

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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.

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Center Fellows & Senior Fellows

Our multidisciplinary Center fellows and 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.

Cerella Craig, M.P.H

Cerella Craig is a Research Assistant II at the SEICHE Center for Health and Justice at Yale School of Medicine. Cerella’s role with the Transitions Clinic Network – Post Incarceration Addiction Treatment, Healthcare and Social Support (TCN PATHS) research team is a continuation of her commitment to supporting health equity among marginalized populations.

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Erin Dunn

Erin C. Dunn, Sc.D., M.P.H.

Dr. Erin C. Dunn is a social and psychiatric epidemiologist with expertise in genetics and epigenetics. Her research laboratory uses interdisciplinary approaches to better understand the social and biological factors that influence the etiology of depression among women, children, and adolescents.

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Nathan A. Fox, Ph.D.

Nathan A. Fox is Distinguished University Professor, Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology, Program in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science at the University of Maryland College Park. He has completed research on the biological bases of social and emotional behavior, developing methods for assessing brain activity in infants and young children during tasks designed to elicit a range of emotions.

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Nat Kendall-Taylor, Ph.D.

Nat Kendall-Taylor, Ph.D.

Nat Kendall-Taylor, Ph.D., is chief executive officer at the FrameWorks Institute, a communications think tank in Washington, DC. As CEO, he leads a multi-disciplinary team of social scientists and communications practitioners who investigate ways to apply innovative framing research methods to social issues and train nonprofit organizations to put the findings into practice.

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Pat Levitt, Ph.D.

Pat Levitt, Ph.D., a Senior Fellow at the Center on the Developing Child, is also the Science Co-Director of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, an initiative of the Center. He is the Chief Scientific Officer, Vice President and Director of The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA).

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Al Race, Senior Fellow

Al Race

Al Race is currently a consultant to social change organizations focused on translating science to shift mindsets around important issues affecting children, teens, and older people. He was Deputy Director and Chief Knowledge Officer at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University until his retirement in 2021.

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James M. Radner, M.Phil.

James M. Radner, M.Phil.

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.

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Aaliyah Samuel, Ed.D.

Aaliyah Samuel, Ed.D.

Dr. Aaliyah Samuel, a Fellow at the Center, is the Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at NWEA. Aaliyah is a bilingual executive leader with expertise from early childhood through higher education. Her experience includes program evaluation and evidence-based programs; data collection and disaggregation; family and community engagement support strategies; and policy development and implementation at the local, state, and national level.

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