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, MD, MPH, FAAP, is the Chief Science Officer at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, where she develops and leads the Center’s scientific agenda. She is the founding director of the Center’s Early Childhood Scientific Council for Equity and the Environment, a multidisciplinary group that synthesizes and translates scientific mechanisms related to the many ways that the built and natural environments impact children’s development and lifelong health.

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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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Gillian A. Najarian, Ed.M.

Gillian Najarian is Co-Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. She was among the Center’s three founders in July 2006. Gillian has strategic oversight for the infrastructure and resources required to successfully deliver on the Center’s vision and mission, both in the short-term as well as to ensure long-term sustainability. She partners with senior leaders at the University to support the Center’s work and positioning at Harvard.

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Priscila Pumarada Urrutia

Priscila Pumarada Urrutia, Ed.M.

As the Chief of Staff, Priscila provides strong leadership and problem-solving skills to facilitate collective pursuit and achievement of the Center’s mission. In this role, Priscila operates at both a tactical and strategic level, overseeing the design and implementation of organizational initiatives critical to the Center’s sustainability.

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Melissa Rivard

Melissa Rivard, Ed.M.

Melissa Rivard is the Director of Engagement Strategies at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. She is responsible for the development and successful execution of the Center’s portfolio of interactive offerings with our key audiences and partners, and stewards the effective operation of the Engagement and Partnerships Team, aligning their work to advance the organization’s overall strategic priorities.

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Tassy Warren, Ed.M.

Tassy Warren is Co-Executive Director and Chief Strategy Officer at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. She is responsible for leading the Center’s strategy development, making sure that it is responsive to the needs of the field and optimizing use of the Center’s assets and platform.

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Corey Zimmerman

Corey Zimmerman, Ed.M.

Corey Zimmerman is Deputy Director, Chief Engagement and Partnerships Officer at the Center on the Developing Child. As Deputy Director, Corey is a core member of the Senior Leadership Team and collaborates with the Co-Executive Directors on overall oversight and management of the Center. As Chief Engagement and Partnerships Officer, she is responsible for developing the Center’s strategy for connecting the science to key audiences on timely issues and building the partnerships to support this.

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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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Jessica Chasse - Center On The Developing Child

Jessica S. Chasse, M.A.

Jessica Chasse joined the Center in August 2023 as the Center’s new Grants Administrator. She works closely with the Director of Finance and Operations to oversee the day-to-day financial health of the Center. She aids the department in managing budgets, keeping track of contracts, and assisting in the planning and implementation of sponsored awards.

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Cerella Craig, M.P.H

Cerella Craig, MPH is a Senior Project Manager for the Pediatric Innovation Initiative (PII) at the Center on the Developing Child. Cerella has served as a liaison between marginalized communities and research for nearly 15 years, taking a special interest in projects supporting health equity. She started her career as a Public Service Specialist at the UCONN Center for Public Health and Health Policy, training students to deliver nutrition education in inner cities.

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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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Jeremy Guardiola - Center On The Developing Child

Jeremy Guardiola, M.A.

Jeremy Guardiola is Special Assistant to Dr. Jack Shonkoff, Founding Director of the Center on the Developing Child. In this role, he supports Dr. Shonkoff in developing collaborative relationships with partners in the early childhood and place-based fields. He has spent his career working on a range of programmatic and policy approaches designed to empower families and young people to thrive.

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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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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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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.

Nicole (Nicki) Bush, Ph.D, Senior Fellow

Nicole (Nicki) Bush, Ph.D

Senior Fellow

Nicole (Nicki) Bush, Ph.D., is the Lisa and John Pritzker Distinguished Professor of Developmental and Behavioral Health at UCSF, jointly appointed in the departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics, and the Division Chief of the Division of Developmental Medicine.

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Stephanie Curenton

Stephanie Curenton

Senior Fellow

Dr. Stephanie M. Curenton is a professor in the Educational Leadership & Policy Studies Department at Boston University Wheelock College of Education & Human Development and the director of the Center on the Ecology of Early Development (CEED). She also is a Senior Fellow at the Harvard University Center on the Developing Child and is a Fellow (nonresident) at the Urban Institute.

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Nathan A. Fox, Ph.D.

Senior Fellow

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.

Senior Fellow

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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Martine Lappé Headshot

Martine Lappé, Ph.D


Martine Lappé is a Fellow at the Center on the Developing Child and an Associate Professor of Sociology and Science, Technology, and Society at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. She is a medical sociologist, bioethicist, and feminist science and technology studies scholar. Her research focuses on lived experiences of health, science, and medicine and she is a member of the Pediatric Innovation Initiative (PII).

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Pat Levitt, Ph.D.

Senior Fellow

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

Senior Fellow

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.

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.

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Aaliyah Samuel, Ed.D.

Aaliyah Samuel, Ph.D.

Senior Fellow

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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