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

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 Founding 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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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

  • Nicole Brown, Project Manager, Donor Relations
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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.

  • Carolyn Gibney, Senior Communications Manager
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    Carolyn Gibney is a Senior Communications Manager at the Center. An experienced web developer, technical trainer, and application support specialist, she helps to implement and measure digital communications strategies across the Center’s website, Salesforce, and other productivity applications. Previously, Carolyn worked in digital publishing and IT. She has a B.A. in English and Philosophy from Gordon College, and an M.St. in Creative Writing from the University of Oxford.

  • 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
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    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
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    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
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    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.

  • Cindy Martell, Financial and Administrative Coordinator
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    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, Project Manager
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    Dan McLaughlin joined the Center in December 2013. As a Project Manager, he provides support for the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child and works on projects related to the Center’s international and scaling strategies. Previously, he worked as a Program Coordinator at Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education. Dan received his B.A. in government from Wesleyan University.

  • Jessica Nelson, Project Manager
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    Jessica Nelson joined the Center in September 2014 and is a Project Manager with the Frontiers of Innovation initiative. At the Center, she works closely with the Washington Innovation Cluster, the measurement and evaluation support team, and manages the Science-Based Innovation workshops. Previously, Jessica worked as an early childhood teacher for 10 years in Boston, Seattle, and Paraguay. At Multifaith Works in Washington state, she coordinated a volunteer program that provided emotional support to people living with HIV/AIDS. Jessica received her B.A. in Spanish from College of the Holy Cross and her M.A. 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.

  • Sally Pfitzer, Project Manager
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    Sally Pfitzer is a Project Manager for Frontiers of Innovation (FOI), and leads the Center’s work to better understand the science of play and its role in advancing children’s developmental outcomes and buffering them from the effects of toxic stress. She works with the FOI team and its partners to develop and translate evidence focused on play, coping, and resilience in an effort to improve program and practice as well as provide opportunities for shared learning. Sally 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 holds a master’s degree in child development from Tufts University and a B.A. in psychology from Boston University.

  • Priscila Pumarada, Senior Project Manager
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    Priscila Pumarada is Senior Project Manager for the Frontiers of Innovation initiative. In this role, Priscila is responsible for the strategic direction and operational success of the Latin America cohort, ensuring seamless project development, management, and delivery in alignment with the Center’s priorities and strategies. 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. Priscila holds a master’s degree in education policy and management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Saint Joseph University.

  • Melissa Rivard, Senior Project Manager
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    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
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    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
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    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.

  • Brandi Thomas, Communications Coordinator
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    Brandi Thomas is the Center’s Communications Coordinator. In this role, she is the primary point of contact for inquiries and media requests to the Center, and she helps to develop and ensure the quality of the Center’s publications, online content, presentations, and more. Brandi has worked in both international development policy and child policy centers, and has extensive experience writing, editing, and translating and promoting research. Brandi holds a B.A. in English from The University of Scranton and a M.A. in Liberal Studies from Duke University.

  • Tien Ung, Director, Leadership Programs and Initiatives
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    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, Director of Policy and Scaling Strategies
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    As Director of Policy and Scaling Strategies, Corey Zimmerman provides strategic leadership to the development of the innovation pipeline for the early childhood field, focusing on how to support intervention teams to transition to scalability. Corey also directs the Center’s strategy for how the science can be used to drive new ideas in policy and systems. Corey brings to this work extensive experience advocating and shaping social policy on behalf of young children and families from her prior work at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, the MA Dept. of Early Education and Care, and at Nurtury, Inc. Corey holds an Ed.M. in Human Development and Psychology from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a B.A. in Public Policy Analysis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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

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.

  • Susan Nall Bales, Senior Fellow

    Susan Nall Bales, a 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.

  • Melanie Berry, Fellow

    Dr. Melanie Berry, a Fellow at the Center, is a research associate with the Stress Neurobiology and Prevention Laboratory at the University of Oregon. Melanie is a core member of the team that has developed Filming Interaction to Nurture Development (FIND), an innovative video coaching program for parents and other caregivers of high-risk children. As a FIND consultant, Melanie provides training and consultation to FIND teams across the country and abroad. Connected to her work with FIND, she is also involved with Frontiers of Innovation, an initiative to promote positive outcomes for vulnerable children. Melanie obtained a doctoral degree in clinical psychology from the PGSP-Stanford Psy.D. Consortium. She has extensive clinical experience with children and families and specializes in serving families involved with the child welfare system.

  • 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. Steve has a master’s degree in public affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, and a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University.

  • 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 Co-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.

  • Holly Schindler, Fellow

    Dr. Holly Schindler, a Fellow at the Center, is an Assistant Professor in the areas of Early Childhood and Family Studies and Educational Psychology at the University of Washington. Prior to her time at the University of Washington, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center. Dr. Schindler’s current research program focuses on how interventions and policies can best target family and school contexts during early childhood to prevent behavior problems and promote mental health in vulnerable populations of families. As part of her work in this area, she conducts meta-analyses using a comprehensive database housing program evaluations of early childhood education, family support, and health-based interventions conducted over the past 5 decades. In a complementary line of research, Dr. Schindler examines how family relationships during early childhood contribute to child and parent mental health and behavior, with an emphasis on the roles of fathers.

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