Community Blog

Integrating Academic Learning with Service Learning in an Undergraduate Class

By Katelyn Malvese, Lola Nedic, & Sarah Scharlin Ben-Hamoo

“Resilience in Development”, CSHD 67, taught by Professor Ann Easterbrooks highlights the capacity of individuals and families to thrive in the context of adversity. Professor Easterbrooks emphasizes the importance of support networks and community resources as building blocks in fostering resilience among children, youth, and families. As part of the course, students do 20 hours of service learning in community organizations. An important feature of this requirement is to connect the volunteer experiences to the framework and principles of the course. 

Food Insecurity:

Four students in the class volunteered to tackle food insecurity in the Boston area. They worked with the “Just Eats” program, which is a part of Food for Free, an organization that provides food for local communities, or with “Building Audacity”. Food for Free, for example, partners with local grocery stores to acquire fresh, unsold food, eliminating food waste and providing food to families. Volunteers package 2000-3000 boxes of food each week. Students working with Food for Free and Building Audacity noted that food security is incredibly important in fostering resilience. They all noted that their work with organizations that limit food waste and provide food to those in need was extremely fulfilling personally.

Research and Outreach: 

Other students worked behind the scenes of programs that foster resilience. Some worked with UU Urban Ministry (UUUM), based in Roxbury and grounded in a social justice framework. Their programs include Roxbury Youth Programs, an after-school program for youth; Renewal House, a home and shelter for families who are survivors of domestic violence; United Souls, a program supporting men facing re-entry and other issues within urban life; and Stand High/Stand United, a program for elementary school-aged children. Together, the Tufts students produced a logic model and survey to gauge where the programs are thriving and where they can improve, and they presented their work to the organization’s board. In one semester, these students worked to create a lasting impact on UUUM’s programs, and the hundreds of people who benefit from them. 

Several students worked with organizations promoting health and wellness. One volunteered with Peer Health Exchange (PHE), a national organization that educates high schoolers about mental and sexual health, and substance abuse; topics that are often neglected in high school curriculums. Despite the many challenges that arise when trying to connect with youth via a virtual format during a pandemic, the program connects with students to discuss the importance of mental health as a protective factor to students in promoting resilience. Other students worked with the HOPE (Healthy Outcomes from Positive Experiences) Project, a program at Tufts University School of Medicine that highlights the power of positive childhood experiences in fostering resilience. These students worked on a CDC-sponsored study of the effects of Covid-19 on American households, trying to understand what helped foster resilience during the pandemic. 

Another student worked with MassVote to foster resilience in the Black community. The organization focuses on voter suppression. For example, a current project is offering to help people register to vote at COVID vaccination sites. This has created trust between the community, the medical community, and in the voting process. 

Finally, another pair of students worked with a boy studying for his Bar Mitzvah who, because of severe learning disabilities, struggled to learn in a typical Hebrew school setting.  The synagogue, with the help of these two students, has provided him a safe space to learn and grow, and build confidence despite many family adversities. This is a reciprocal experience of resilience development, since their tutoring has helped him build learning skills and confidence in his abilities, and his hard work and growth has provided personal growth for these two students.  

Conclusions

Students were given the opportunity to learn about resilience in local communities, which has given them additional insight into the course curriculum.  While some service focused on fostering resilience in individuals, others looked more broadly at the entire community.  On every scale, focusing on a resilience model as opposed to a deficit model is beneficial. These programs were able to help communities both directly and indirectly, by giving them essential resources, building confidence, or empowering people to fight against racist systems. This experience has given the students the opportunity to grow as individuals, and to foster resilience within themselves and our communities, regardless of limitations put on by a global pandemic.


Katelyn Malvese (left), Lola Nedic (center), & Sarah Scharlin Ben-Hamoo (right) are undergraduates at Tufts University.

Community Blog

Promoting Equity for Autistic Children and Teens during Covid

By Leah Kirsch and Abby Donaghue

Since the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was signed into law in 1975, children with disabilities have been guaranteed access to a free and appropriate public education. This policy was a historical breakthrough in the rights of disabled and neurodivergent Americans, including those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), quite literally opening the door to public schools for disabled students. For most affected students, IDEA is enforced by providing an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) guaranteeing service access and curriculum accommodations.

Under the circumstances of COVID-19, special education programs governed by IDEA have faced unforeseen challenges in adapting to remote learning. Online education was never considered when IDEA was written, and no amendment since has addressed this learning environment. Many of the services and accommodations guaranteed in students’ IEPs have subsequently been rendered inaccessible. While some services are weakened in a virtual format, others are impossible to provide or assess online. This is especially true of the social opportunities that are crucial to developing social and communicative skills for autistic students. 

The transition into remote learning has also brought with it immense stress for youth with ASD and their families. The disruption in daily routines has been significantly distressing, as the consistency and structure that many autistic individuals thrive with have been largely lost. Parents have been tasked with recreating these routines while also taking on the role of teacher, speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, counselor, and more. It’s an enormous challenge for many families to provide these services – without training –  while balancing parenting and work responsibilities. Hardest hit have been low-income households, which are disproportionately families of color that have taken on the brunt of the economic burden from the pandemic. Parents performing underpaid essential work don’t have the opportunity to care for their children while working from home. Non-English speaking parents face additional barriers to providing these services to their children, as they can’t provide the instruction typical of English-speaking schools.

We also recognize that schools aren’t entirely to blame for the hardships families have been facing. In-person activities have been halted for the safety of everyone involved, and teachers are being stretched incredibly thin trying to adapt to entirely new instructional modalities. Still, there is room for more to be done to help autistic students and their families. 

At the Crehan Lab, we are currently conducting a study on IEP satisfaction and equity across racial, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds. Schools have the opportunity to learn so much from families’ experiences with remote learning: what worked, what didn’t, and ideas for moving forward. Yet all too often, parent concerns aren’t addressed in their child’s IEP objectives. As we leave remote learning behind, it’s crucial that schools listen to parent perspectives and take the necessary steps to support students through the transition back to in-person learning. For more information on best supporting children with ASD in returning to school, check out the following resources: 

Indiana Resource Center for Autism      

UC Davis News Room


Leah Kirsch (left) and Abby Donaghue (right) are undergraduate research assistants at the Crehan Lab, studying social development and access to resources in the context of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Abby is a sophomore double majoring in Biopsychology and Child Study & Human Development. Leah is a junior double majoring in Cognitive & Brain Science and Child Study & Human Development. 

Community Blog

Unconditional Positive Regard

By Emily H. Carroll

I don’t believe in the concept of a bad child.  As a therapeutic mentor, I met children who set fires, physically and emotionally harmed others, ran away, and struggled with honesty, and not one bad apple graced my presence. One client, Joey*, attempted to steal a fidget spinner during our session. His hands fumbled with the small, precious gadget, attempting to conceal it in his wadded-up jacket.  Judy* threatened to fatally harm another child. In my work with Joey, Judy, and children more generally, I often consider the notion of unconditional positive regard and I have come to believe that such acceptance holds a special kind of power to build and transform.

Unconditional positive regard is that feeling you get around someone with whom you feel safe to just be.  This person could witness you in your most selfish moment and they would still look at you with kind, unassuming eyes, even as they hold you accountable.  It may sound ironic that a child lighting fires around the house needs some loving energy, but when we consider what we teach a person when we blast them with shame and withhold our love, we find that we are punishing one kind of violence with another kind of violence, passing on the plague of hurt. 

In the face of unsafe behavior, fear, anger, sadness, and disgust serve as natural, protective human responses. Too often, however, we let this warranted emotional response simmer and morph into vilification of the person, or in this case, child, who does harm.  I believe that the process of labeling a child bad and wrong nurtures the roots of violence. When we see a child as a monster, even if unconsciously or subtly, we close a door to effective connection, change, and growth. We miss an opportunity to understand the pain fueling the behavior.   

I have found that connecting to and validating the child’s pain, as well as seeing them with eyes that mirror their goodness, has opened up powerful doors to positive therapeutic work.  I set my intention upon adding and modeling positive connection and empathy to the child as opposed to defining them by the actions I don’t agree with. I endeavor to show up to each newfound delight, disappointment, and fear as an attentive, warm witness. “I see you, I hear you,” I say with my body, face, words, voice, and actions. With Joey, it became about witnessing and validating the injustice of some kids having more than others. For Judy, I validated the theme of double standards and desire for interpersonal connection. When I create accepting space for a child’s feelings, I nourish their own ability to hold themselves in positive regard.     

Even saying “no,” or perhaps especially saying “no” serves as an important opportunity to teach a child that a limit can exist alongside positive regard. For Judy, validating her anger came with the important caveat that hurting others doesn’t help. Limits and boundaries can become a means of expressing care and valuing wellbeing, as opposed to a means of exerting power and control. When I remember to maintain this mindset, the work becomes seamless and growth takes hold.    

Never underestimate the power of unconditional positive regard. We can model a different way of being, a different way of responding to pain that pumps the breaks on violence. An adult’s welcoming presence and shame-free limit-setting can lay the foundation for a child to grow their own internal source of acceptance. Ironically, acceptance can serve as the catalyst for change.    

*Names and identifying information have been altered to protect the client’s confidentiality.


I gain a great deal of daily inspiration and influence from Sarah Blondin’s work and I love to spread her magic. Find her meditations on her podcast, “Live Awake,” or the app, “Insight Timer.” She also has a book called “Heart Minded, How to Hold Yourself and Others in Love.”


Emily earned her BA in Child Study and Human Development from Eliot-Pearson in 2018 and since then, she has worked as a nanny, therapeutic mentor, and in-home therapy team member. Emily will begin a Master of Social Work degree in September, 2021 at Boston College.  

Community Blog

I Wish I Were Light Skinned Like You: Colorism in the U.S. and Latin America 

By Keshia Harris, Ph.D.

Have you ever wished you were another color or race? Have you ever wished more people found you attractive or that you didn’t have to fight so hard to be valued by society? First, I want to say, this is normal. Second, I want to assure you that you can have this thought at some point in your life and STILL develop a profound sense of pride in your race and skin color. 

If colorism is a concept that is completely foreign to you or not at all a part of your social experience, I’ll take the liberty to explain. 

Colorism in the U.S.

During my master’s degree training in mental health counseling at Columbia University Teachers College, I interned as a youth development counselor at the Harlem Educational Activities Fund (HEAF). I’ll always remember the words of my 6th grade client, “I wish I were light skinned like you”. A gorgeous Jamaican American girl with espresso brown skin and thick curly hair, she longed so much to be as popular as her Dominican American friends with light brown skin and hair down their backs. 

I was shocked by her comment. As the darkest woman in my household and often the darkest person in my friend groups, I was keenly aware of where I fell on the skin color spectrum. No one, and I mean NO ONE, had ever referred to me as light skinned. 

My next reaction was deep remorse. How was it that such a majestic young queen could possibly see herself as ugly? Through introspective beauty activities such as having my client identify all of the Black female celebrities she admired (Beyoncé, Rihanna, etc.), we realized that she didn’t actually see me as light skinned. Rather, she saw me as pretty. In one of our final sessions, I put my arm next to hers so she could see the similarities in our skin tone. 

Colorism in Brazil and Colombia 

Unfortunately, the effects of colorism determine the life outcomes of communities of color far beyond popularity and far beyond our borders. My experience with the 6th grade student along with teaching English in Latin America inspired me to pursue doctoral research on colorism in educational outcomes of Black and Indigenous adolescents in Brazil and Colombia.  From 2014-2017, I studied how socioeconomic status, experiences of discrimination, and postsecondary goals varied by skin tone for high school seniors in Salvador, Brazil and Cartagena, Colombia. I wasn’t surprised to find that participants of darker skin tones reported the lowest socioeconomic status and the highest rates of discrimination.  On the other hand, postsecondary goals did not vary by skin tone.  

In other words, there were no differences in academic aspirations between light, medium, and dark skinned adolescents.  Oftentimes, researchers and policymakers place the blame of achievement and socioeconomic gaps on the individual.  However, the experiences of these young people clearly illustrate the atrocities of systemic inequalities, providing insight into differential life outcomes based on the lightness or darkness of one’s skin. Their voices speak to the reality that everyone should have a fair opportunity regardless of skin color.

Keshia L. Harris, Ph.D. is a research scientist at the Center on the Ecology of Early Development (CEED) at Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Development.  In March 2021, Dr. Harris presented her lecture titled, A social Justice Approach to Colorism in Education for Professor Richard Lerner’s Positive Youth Development and Social Justice Series at Tufts University Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development. 

Faculty Posts

Protect Incarcerated Youth During the Pandemic

By Martha Pott, Ph.D.

COVID-19 has infected almost 4,000 youth in juvenile justice facilities since the pandemic started. What kind of facilities are these? Do juveniles need to be in them? Some are residential treatment centers for children with behavioral and emotional problems. Some are detention centers where youth who have been arrested or detained are held waiting a hearing or trial. Some are lock-ups for youth who have committed crimes. Staff who work in these centers are also at great risk; four of them have died of the virus. Most states have tried to limit the spread of the virus. A primary way they do this is by restricting family visits. This is traumatic for incarcerated youth who may be as young as 6 or 7. 

In some states, facilities have managed the spread of COVID-19 by putting youth into separate quarantined areas that are essentially solitary confinement. Although many states prohibit solitary for youth, under the pandemic, health authorities have essentially turned to it as a necessary response. Solitary confinement can be traumatic for youth and contribute to depression, anxiety, and risk of self-harm; over half of youth who commit suicide inside facilities are in solitary confinement. 

It may surprise you to know that about 70% of youth are incarcerated for non-violent offenses. And many youths are in detention centers because they have been accused of an offense but a later hearing finds that they are innocent; thus, they’ve been detained and exposed to COVID for no reason at all in terms of public safety. 

The good news is that there has been a huge decline in detained youth over the past two decades due to juvenile justice reform, by some counts, a 65% reduction from 2000 to 2018. But policies under COVID threaten to reverse that trend. 

Some states are releasing youth. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI) oversees detention facilities. They have found that in some states and counties far fewer youth have been admitted and detained, e.g., Fresno County in California. But this is not true in most places. 

There are alternatives that keep the public safe. Here are some recommendations taken from three sources: The Sentencing Project, The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), and the Center for Children’s Law and Policy. 

  • Only admit youths who pose an immediate and serious threat to their communities.
  • Release youth immediately who won’t pose such a threat and can be safely treated in their homes or home communities.
  • Make it possible for detained youths and families to communicate freely and often. 
  • Protect youth from COVID during monitoring or parole by following health guidelines for distance and mask-wearing; for example, use phone or zooms for parole monitoring. 
  • States should publish their COVID numbers in youth facilities (many of these are kept secret).

COVID-19 Diagnoses in Juvenile Facilities: Known Cases
3,753 youth as of February 22, 2021.

Sources:

The Annie E. Casey Foundation: https://www.aecf.org

The Sentencing Project: https://www.sentencingproject.org

Stop Solitary for Kids: https://www.stopsolitaryforkids.org

Martha Pott is a faculty member in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study & Human Development. This spring she teaches a course titled: Plugging the Preschool-to-Prison Pipeline: How Incarceration Affects Children, Youth & Families. 

Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Master’s Candidate Li Yin Cheok

Each month, our Outreach Team highlights a current student who is innovating to positively advance the department’s mission while excelling in their studies at Tufts.

This month, E-P Outreach Coordinator Libby Hunt connected with 2nd year Master’s student Li Yin Cheok to learn more about her time at E-P, her applied work, and her advice for future E-P students. 


Name: Li Yin Cheok

Graduation Year: 2021

Concentration: Clinical-Developmental Health and Psychology

Track: Applied

Advisor: Dr. Eileen Crehan


Libby: You’re on the applied track – what are you doing for your internship?

Li Yin: I am doing an internship that involves work with children who have or are at risk of having developmental delays, and their families.

Libby: What types of research or applied work are you pursuing in the short-term? How does E-P fit in with these plans?

Li Yin: In the short-term, I will be working on a research project at a major hospital in Boston that relates to positive parenting. I found this position through connections at EP and for that, I am grateful.

Libby: What has been your favorite course at E-P (so far)?

Li Yin: CSHD 161: Advanced Personal & Social Development (with Dr. Pott)

Libby: How has you time at E-P influenced your personal growth and skills as a researcher and practitioner?

Li Yin: The wonderful people I’ve met at EP have given me space to voice my ideas and learn from my mistakes with minimal judgement. Through these experiences, I’ve become more aware of my limits and capabilities, and become comfortable with who I am as a professional. I’ve also improved my time management and leadership skills since getting involved in student organizations.

Libby: In what ways have you used or plan to use your degree from Eliot-Pearson?

Li Yin: I plan to work in a research lab that looks at emotional development and its influence on psychopathology. My ‘Plan B’ is to return to working directly with children in an early education or early intervention setting, armed with the developmental knowledge I’ve gained at EP.

Libby: Do you have any words of advice for other E-P students?

Li Yin: EP, and Tufts in general, has many resources to offer. Try to take advantage of as many of them as possible. A few resources that I’ve found helpful include my professors, GSAS and Tisch library workshops, and the Career Center.


Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight: Elizabeth Shuey

Throughout the school year, our Outreach Team highlights alumni of Eliot-Pearson who are excelling in their professional careers post-Tufts while continuing to maintain and spread the department’s mission.

This month, E-P Outreach Coordinator Libby Hunt connected with Elizabeth Shuey, PhDto learn more about her time at E-P, the work she is doing now with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and advice for current students. 


Name: Elizabeth Shuey

Graduation Year: 2015

Program/Track: PhD Program

Academic Advisor: Professor Tama Leventhal


LH: What was your favorite course at E-P?

ES: Tama’s course on neighborhoods

LH: What are you currently doing?

ES: I am a policy analyst at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). I work on our early childhood education and care team, helping countries design, improve and implement policies. I do this through managing large-scale data collection efforts (mostly the Starting Strong Teaching and Learning International Survey that collects data from staff working in early childhood settings), designing and administering policy questionnaires for governments to complete, analyzing data, writing reports and organizing meetings where government officials can learn from one another.

LH: How has you time at E-P influenced your personal growth and the trajectory of your career?

ES: In so many ways! The internships I did as a student definitely helped make me competitive for the Society for Research in Child Development policy fellowship, which I had for two years after I graduated. That experience then gave me the right profile to move into my current role at the OECD. And my network of friends from E-P is still an incredible source of support for navigating and balancing my career and personal life.

LH: In what ways have/do you use your degree from Eliot-Pearson?

ES: I use the things I learned at E-P everyday. I am often asked to give quick feedback on things that require in-depth knowledge of child development. In addition, much of my job involves choosing the best research methods to answer questions relevant for policy, and then applying those methods and analyzing data using a variety of approaches: all skills I developed at E-P!

LH: Do you have any advice or words for current E-P students?

ES: Enjoy being surrounded by so many people who care deeply about improving the world for children and families, and then bring that energy wherever you go next.

Community Blog

Pharmacies’ Time to Mitigate Opioid Epidemic’s Effect on Children is Long Overdue

By Lily McIntyre, Lisvette Batista, Julian Balkcom, Ilona Eaton, Lily Kurtz, Michelle Liu, Lily McIntyre, and Olivia Smith

Approximately 8,986 children and adolescents died from opioid overdoses from 1999 to 2016, and these numbers are growing (Devitt). Opioid strength has increased immensely in recent years in drugs such as codeine and methadone, yet pharmacies still sell these opioids without visibly displaying child-safe cabinet locks. Well-known pharmacies like CVS and Rite-Aid take a controversial stance against tobacco products by not selling them, yet these same pharmacies won’t stand for the safety of young children by visibly selling these locks.

More and more children accidentally ingest medication partly because prescription bottles are “child-resistant,” which means that “the packaging meets a standard that requires it to be significantly difficult for children under five years of age to open within a reasonable time, and not difficult for normal adults to use properly” (Safe Kids Worldwide). However, resistant packaging is insufficient, as a recent study found that children aged three to five could open child-resistant bottles in seconds (Safe Kids Worldwide). According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission guidelines, a package is deemed “child-resistant” as long as 80% of children are unable to open the package in 5 minutes (Fitzwater). Therefore, a package labeled “child-resistant” can still be opened by about 20% of children.

In addition to the ineffectiveness of child-resistant bottles, parents are not implementing safe storage practices. In a study conducted with 681 households, in which a guardian using prescription opioids lived with children under seven, only 32.6% of adults self-reported using safe storage practices (McDonald et al).  Some parents falsely assume that their young children know to stay away from prescription medicine; as a result, one third of parents believe that safely storing their drugs does not matter as long as their children are supervised (Safe Kids Worldwide). Cabinet locks provide a much safer solution: they require a lock combination or a key to open, making it more difficult for a child to access prescriptions.

How can parents lock up opioids when there are no drawer locks being openly sold at the counter of pharmacies? Massachusetts state law requires pharmacies to display a sign near the counter telling customers that locks are sold; however, the signs only need to be four by five inches in size (Massachusetts). Because of the signs’ diminutive size, individuals are virtually unaware that these locks are available in their local pharmacies.

Pharmacies must offer simple safety options for parents, guardians, and all prescription users, especially given that prior testing has proven that “child-resistant” bottles are not effective enough to keep children safe from accidental ingestion. Moving forward, pharmacies must sell child safety locks at a visible location at the counter. While education about safe storage of opioids is important, it is insufficient without making these locks accessible to the public. Pharmacies can take simple measures to save many innocent children. The time for pharmacies to mitigate their effects of the opioid crisis is long overdue. Our children’s lives are at stake.


References

Devitt, Michael. “New Research Finds Rise in Pediatric Deaths From Opioids.” American Academy of Family Physicians. 18 Jan. 2019, https://www.aafp.org/news/health-of-the-public/20190118pedopioids.html

Fitzwater, Travis. “Child-Resistant Is Not Child-Proof.” The Missouri Pharmacy Blog, 14 Oct. 2009, http://www.thepharmacyblog.com/child-resistant-is-not-child-proof/.

“Massachusetts Legislature Homepage.” The 191st General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, malegislature.gov/. https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleXV/Chapter94C/Section21B

McDonald, Eileen M., et al. “Safe Storage of Opioid Pain Relievers Among Adults Living in Households With Children.” American Academy of Pediatrics, vol. 139, no. 3, Mar. 2017, p. e20162161. pediatrics.aappublications.org, doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2161.

Safe Kids Worldwide. “Safe Medicine Storage: Recent Trends and Insights for Families and Health Educators.” 2018. PDF File. https://www.safekids.org/sites/default/files/safe_medicine_storage-march_2018.pdf

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Pharmacists: On The Front Lines. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/pdf/pharmacists_brochure-a.pdf


This blog was written by Lily McIntyre, Lisvette Batista, Julian Balkcom, Ilona Eaton, Lily Kurtz, Michelle Liu, Lily McIntyre, and Olivia Smith; they were students last year in a CSHD course, Physical and Mental Health in Childhood.
Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight: Russell Babcock

Throughout the school year, our Outreach Team highlights alumni of Eliot-Pearson who are excelling in their professional careers post-Tufts while continuing to maintain and spread the department’s mission.

This month, Outreach Coordinator Libby Hunt interviewed former Master’s student Russell Babcock about his time at E-P, his career trajectory, and his current role as the Head of Talent Development at StepStone Group in NYC.

Name: Russell Babcock

Graduation Year: 1995

Program/Track: Master’s Program; Applied track

Academic Advisor: Professor Charna Levine


LH: What did you do for your internship on the Applied track?

RB: I completed my community field placement and internship at an early childcare center in Cambridge. My responsibilities included assisting the Director with the day-to-day operations and working with the teachers to provide a safe, engaging, and welcoming environment for all children and families. I also utilized my child study knowledge and experience to collaborate with the teachers to plan lessons and design curriculum, set up learning /dramatic play areas, and help them to recognize teachable moments.

LH: What was your favorite course at E-P?

RB: This is a difficult question, one akin to asking a parent, “Which child is your favorite?” While my favorite course was the Seminar in Early Education, taught by Professor Sylvia Feinburg, other courses that I especially enjoyed and learned a great deal were: Culture and Learning: Issues for Multicultural Education taught by Professor Jayanthi Mistry & Advanced Personal and Social Development taught by Professor George Scarlett.

LH: How did your time at E-P influence your personal growth and the trajectory of your career?

RB: Immensely. I started my graduate studies 4 years after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, and working at an amazing non-public school in Oakland, CA, Lincoln Child Center.

My two memorable years at Tufts, which included incredible learning experiences as a GTA in Tufts Educational Day Care Center (TEDCC), have strengthened my appreciation for the importance of a high quality, early childhood education. My time at E-P increased my awareness of the use of collaborative, multidisciplinary approaches to understand and address inequities in schools and communicates as well as the importance of technology to help make learning more fun, inspiring, and meaningful.

The ability to integrate coursework from E-P and what I have learned through various certification programs has allowed me to have a non-traditional, interesting, and fun career path. My diverse skill set and ability to utilize what I learned in my psychology and applied child development courses has provided me with the opportunity to work in cities across and outside of the US, including Athens, Dublin, London, San Diego, and Tokyo.

My career post E-P includes working in the Education, Pharma, Insurance, and Finance industries. I have worked in small, private companies and well as large, global companies. One constant in my career trajectory is applying what I learned at E-P, whether during my time in the classroom learning alongside my fellow students, meeting with professors and TAs during office hours, observing children and teachers at the Children’s School, or working alongside Master teachers at TEDCC.

My ability to and appreciation for the uniqueness of every child and adult helped me to obtain my latest job. Interestingly, one of the firm’s founders shared that he was especially intrigued by my M.A. in Applied Child Development from Tufts during my interview.

LH: What are you currently doing?

RB: I am currently the Head of Talent Development at StepStone Group in NYC, a global private markets firm that provides customized investment and advisory solutions to many of the most sophisticated investors in the world. My mission is to cultivate a culture of creative, curious, collaborative, and continuous learners across 13 countries and 19 locations.

I am responsible for the firm’s global learning strategy and am leading an L&D Council to determine how to best develop the competencies needed (e.g., creative problem solving, growth mindset, leadership, teamwork) today and in the near future. Another key responsibility is to upskill and reskill our people as quickly and effectively as possible, utilizing technology, relevant and engaging content, and multiple training modalities.

I, as many people have during the global pandemic, am actively involved with providing our employees with COVID-19 specific resources. These include virtual trainings and other information from the perspectives of Work, Family/Roommates, and Well-Being. I am currently collaborating with Professor Marina Bers to deliver a webinar to StepStone families with young children. Professor Bers will provide the families with helpful resources to support their child’s development and enhance their virtual learning experiences.

I am also active in my firm’s global D&I efforts, which includes leading focus groups and collaborating with my HR colleagues to improve how we source, interview, hire, and develop our diverse employees.

LH: In what ways do you use your degree from Eliot-Pearson in your current work?

RB: What do all adults have in common? At sometime in their lives they were children and went through various stages (e.g., cognitive, social and emotional) of childhood. The pedagogy that I learned at E-P is easily transferable to working with and teaching adults. I have drawn upon the teachings and applied experience opportunities from E-P as an IT Business Analyst and Project Manager, L&D Consultant and Supervisor, and now as the Head of Talent Development at a successful, global firm.

I use my degree every day, whether I am working directly with children and their families in extracurricular activities or indirectly with colleagues who may or may not have children. I regularly draw upon Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Developmental Theory, Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Developmental Theory, and Lev Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory as I integrate sound early childhood practices, such as good interpersonal interactions and assessments, into my learning and development activities.

LH: Do you have any advice or words for current E-P students?

RB: Savor your time at E-P and get to know the amazing faculty, knowledgeable staff, and diverse students. The rich learning experiences, strong relationships and numerous, positive memories will last you a lifetime.

After graduation, give back to E-P by volunteering your time and pledging a monetary gift to support the many wonderful programs and scholarships that E-P offers.

Stay in touch with each other via the E-P alumni listserv, Tufts Alumni Association, Jumbo Career Network, LinkedIn, et cetera.

Continue to, in whatever career path you choose and wherever life takes you, make a positive impact on the lives of children and families in diverse communities.

Stay safe and well. Go Jumbos!

LH: Anything else you’d like to share?

RB: The best thing about my time at E-P was meeting Kathleen Mohrle, M.A.T. 1996. We recently celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary and are blessed with two wonderful children. Karina Rose is a sophomore and aspiring writer and Ryan Ming is an 8th grader who is interested in political science.

Community Blog

E-P Grad Student Helps Create Michigan Policy for COVID-19 Education

By Melissa Lovitz

This summer I worked at Michigan State University (MSU) at the Education Policy Innovation Collaborative (EPIC) Lab. In April, the Michigan Department of Education asked EPIC to help them understand how Michigan districts planned to continue educating students as school buildings closed due to COVID-19. To do so, our research team obtained and coded Continuity of Learning (COL) plans from 813 Michigan school district put in place for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year to address how school districts would function with the suspension of face-to-face instruction. I had several responsibilities including developing a coding rubric and creating a codebook for the data collection team, monitoring data collection progress, and interpreting the results. We wrote up our findings in policy brief to share with Michigan education partners and education researchers. To me, this is a great example of 21st Century research. We responded to a real world, practice-related issue, developed a research study to answer critical questions about how Michigan school districts planned to educate students during Covid-19, and created a resource for policymakers to help inform decisions for the 2020-2021 school year. You can read the policy brief here: https://epicedpolicy.org/how-did-michigan-school-districts-plan-to-educate-students-during-covid-19/

About the Author: Melissa Lovitz is an E-P doctoral student and a Research Analyst at the Tufts Interdisciplinary Evaluation Research (TIER) group. Melissa received her Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Connecticut and her Master’s degree in Urban Education Policy from Brown University. At Tufts, she studies parent-child relationships, family engagement across students’ educational trajectory, and parental role construction in the contexts of early childhood education and development.