Policy Leaders Gather to Cap Innovative Early Learning Experience

June 23, 2022

Policy Leaders Gather to Cap Innovative Early Learning Experience

Hosted by The Hunt Institute & Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative 


For Immediate Release: June 23, 2022

Media Contact: Kasha Ely



Cambridge, MA—The Hunt Institute, in collaboration with the Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, will host the culminating event of the Early Childhood Policy Academy on June 24-25, 2022, in Cambridge, MA.  

The Early Childhood Policy Academy takes an innovative approach to educating and empowering policy makers across the political spectrum to take action in early education—a field that has historically lacked resources to help leaders understand the policy implications of the latest and best research.  

The Academy’s four online modules constitute a sustained, multi-layered, job-embedded learning experience that deepens leaders’ understanding of:  

  • the science of early brain development, and connecting that science to early childhood practices; 
  • financing early childhood systems, including funding challenges and opportunities at the state level;  
  • effective early childhood governance that defines and coordinates leadership across the system, and; 
  • strengths and challenges of the early childhood workforce that influence early childhood systems. 

This final event will take place in person so that Academy participants can interact face-to-face with experts from Harvard and other universities, municipal and state officials, and leaders of nonprofit organizations. The sessions will feature both exclusive keynotes and small group discussions designed to help participants identify an early childhood policy goal they hope to accomplish in their state or community. Once they return home, participants will receive technical assistance from The Hunt Institute.   

“Bringing together the science of early brain development and early childhood practices is important for improving early childhood education across the country,” said Chris Jones of North Dakota Department of Human Services. “I’m grateful to The Hunt Institute and the Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative for creating this space for us to engage with state policy leaders.” 

The two-day meeting will feature panel discussions and remarks from a variety of experts, including: 

  • Kirsten Baesler, Superintendent of Public Instruction, North Dakota Department of Education 
  • Dr. Dina Castro, Professor, Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Development and Director, Boston University Institute for Early Childhood Well-Being 
  • Dr. Stephanie Curenton, Associate Professor, Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Development, and Director, Center on the Ecology of Early Development 
  • Bethany Hall-Long, Lieutenant Governor of Delaware 
  • Chris Jones, Executive Director, North Dakota Department of Human Services 
  • Dr. Stephanie Jones, Gerald S. Lesser Professor in Early Childhood Development, Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Co-Director, Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative 
  • Amy Kershaw, Acting Commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care 
  • Dr. Nonie Lesaux, Roy Edward Larsen Professor of Education & Human Development, Harvard Graduate School of Education Co-Director, Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative  
  • Dr. Junlei Li, Co-Chair, Human Development and Education Programs, and Saul Zaentz Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education 
  • Kristin McSwain, Director, Boston Office of Early Childhood, and Senior Advisor to Mayor Michelle Wu 
  • Jessica Vega Pederson, Commissioner, District 3, Multnomah County, Oregon 
  • Laura Perille, CEO, Nurtury Inc. 
  • Jeana Ross, former Secretary of Education, Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (2012-20); Director of Policy and Children’s Affairs, Alabama Extended Learning Alliance 
  • Jessica Sager, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, All Our Kin 
  • Dr. Jack Shonkoff, Professor of Child Health and Development, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Director, Center on the Developing Child; Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital; Research Staff, Massachusetts General Hospital 
  • Janna Wagner, Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer, All Our Kin 


“The Early Childhood Policy Academy equips state policy leaders with the information they need to make informed decisions about early childhood education. The Saul Zaentz and Hunt Institute teams are honored to take part in this event to bring the policy academy to a close, and excited to see how these leaders put this experience to work.” said Javaid Sidiqqi of The Hunt Institute and Nonie Lesaux of Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative.  

Participants who finish all content will receive a certificate of completion and be recognized as Early Childhood Policy Academy graduates. 

About The Hunt Institute 

The Hunt Institute, an affiliate of the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy, is a recognized leader in the movement to transform public education. Marshaling expertise from a nationwide partner network since its establishment in 2001, the Institute brings together people and resources that help build and nurture visionary leadership and mobilize strategic action for greater educational outcomes and student success. For more information, please visit: http://www.hunt-institute.org/ 

About the Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative 

Launched in 2016, the Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative promotes the knowledge, professional learning, and collective action necessary to cultivate optimal early learning environments and experiences. The Initiative conducts groundbreaking research to drive policy and practice, offers a new model of professional learning for leaders around the world, and trains graduate students to spark change. For more information, please visit: https://zaentz/gse.harvard.edu 


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