The Nebraska Academy for Early Childhood Research (NAECR) has selected six faculty members to serve as Policy Fellows for the 2022-23 academic year.
The NAECR Policy Fellows Program is designed to educate early childhood researchers on policy processes, impacts and relationships to research; to provide policymakers with insight into the latest early childhood research at the University of Nebraska; and to generate collaboration among researchers and policymakers to develop effective research agendas that enrich early childhood experiences.
The program features a series of informal conversations between NAECR early childhood researchers and First Five Nebraska.
Katie Bass, data and policy research advisor for First Five Nebraska, said the Policy Fellows program is key to bridging the gap between the research and policy communities in the state.
“First Five Nebraska is privileged to have a front-row seat, using leading-edge research to help our state’s policymakers make the most informed decisions possible about the care, education and healthy development of young children,” she said.
Bass noted that continuing and strengthening the partnership between First Five Nebraska and NAECR Policy Fellows is crucial for future generations of children and their families.
“When we combine this mutually beneficial learning process with the work of building strategic relationships, it widens future opportunities for evaluative and applied policy research,” Bass said.
2022-23 NAECR Policy Fellows
Carrie Clark, associate professor of educational psychology, University of Nebraska–Lincoln:
“I am looking forward to meeting people from different backgrounds who are committed to supporting the welfare of young children and families. I’m especially looking forward to learning about the process of policy construction and adoption in Nebraska, and learning how to share research more effectively for audiences that work in policy. Early childhood research is fundamental in helping determine what strategies and supports provide the best possible start for children. It matters because everyone has a stake in our young children—they are the continuation of what we do today.”
Amy Encinger, assistant professor of education and child development, UNMC Munroe-Meyer Institute:
“I am looking forward to learning more about how to best work and communicate with policymakers to help inform policy decisions that impact young children and their families, as well as the opportunity to communicate the importance of early childhood. Early childhood research is important as it provides important insight on how to boost and support children’s development, provide early educators with strategies to provide optimal learning environments, and ultimately benefit children and their families. Taking and translating early childhood research into information that is meaningful for policymakers will allow for data informed policy and decision-making.”
Holly Hatton-Bowers, associate professor of child, youth and family studies and early childhood Nebraska Extension specialist, University of Nebraska–Lincoln:
“I’m looking forward to learning how we can facilitate change and inspire others to do the same. I am excited to learn from research and policy experts in a peer learning community where we exchange ideas and solutions to address many issues related to early childhood at the local, state and federal level. The opportunity to collaborate with research and policy experts to affect positive changes for young children and their families will be an empowering learning experience for developing research agendas relevant to policy. Early childhood research integrated across systems can inform leaders and programs to identify solutions to key questions about young children and their caregivers’ needs. When this research is conducted in partnership with communities, findings are more relevant and accessible, and lead to early childhood systems of care that can be more meaningful and equitable.”
Sara Kupzyk, assistant professor of psychology, University of Nebraska at Omaha:
“I am looking forward to becoming more informed about current policy initiatives, identifying strategies to share research findings with members of the community, and exploring how policy interests can inform lines of research. Early childhood research is important for examining what practices or interventions lead to positive outcomes for diverse children, families and other individuals supporting a child’s development. When we target prevention and intervention efforts at early ages, we can facilitate and better support children’s development.”
Dawn Mollenkopf, associate professor of teacher education, University of Nebraska at Kearney:
“What I am looking forward to most as a NAECR Policy Fellow is getting a deeper understanding of the current policies, challenges and initiatives that impact the early childhood field, and engaging with network individuals in policy, research and the community who can collaborate for systemic change. Early Childhood research is important because the early years set the stage for the rest of a child’s life. The issues impacting children and their families—and the early childhood professionals that work with them—are challenging, and only broad-scale collaboration will allow researchers and policy advocates to join forces for needed changes. My goal is to be part of that broad-scale collaboration to make those changes.”
Amy Napoli, assistant professor of child, youth and family studies and early childhood Nebraska Extension specialist, University of Nebraska–Lincoln:
“I am looking forward to learning more about the research-policy connection and what researchers can do to help policymakers make research-informed decisions. I am also looking forward to connecting with local early childhood policy advocates to learn how Nebraska researchers can support them. Early childhood is a critical time for development, and research is one way of investing in and supporting early development. Research that supports young children and their caregivers is beneficial for everyone—children, families and communities.”