Evidence on the science of early childhood has grown exponentially in recent years, highlighting the central role that family, community, and early education play in supporting young children’s healthy physical, cognitive, and emotional development in the earliest years of life. Coupled with enhanced policies and practices that have expanded early education, early intervention, and integrated services approaches, this has led to the need for more leaders in the field of early childhood policy. 

The Institute of Early Childhood Policy at Boston College, launched in the fall of 2021, is a cross-disciplinary effort between the Lynch School of Education and Human Development and the School of Social Work. Led by professor Rebekah Levine Coley and a team of faculty in the two schools, the institute expands research, training, and interdisciplinary collaboration in the field of early childhood development while serving as the hub for a new certificate in Early Childhood Policy and Leadership.

The institute will serve as a hub to:

  • engage leaders
  • train students
  • expand collaborative research and translational initiatives in the early childhood policy field

A central component of the mission is a cohort-based training program designed to increase the availability of early childhood policy leaders. 

  • IECP Fellows, drawn from a diverse group of master’s and doctoral students, will complete one-and-a-half years of rigorous training in early childhood development, policy analysis, research methods, advocacy, and leadership.
  • The program, which will be highly selective, will prepare the fellows for careers in early childhood policy and practice and set them up to make sustainable, equitable change in the field.

The leadership team envisions that both the institute and the training program will grow over time to create a strong network of faculty leaders, community partners, and alumni that will make significant scientific, educational, and policy contributions to support children, families, and communities around the world. 

Diversity—in identity, discipline, and methodology—drives the Institute for Early Childhood Policy. The institute, in its pursuit to build a strong, engaged, and supportive intellectual community, seeks to collaborate with scholars and practitioners who showcase diversity across demographics, disciplines, and professional goals in an effort to increase the synergies that arise from diverse experiences and perspectives.

At the IECP, diversity is reflected in:

  • the institute’s leadership team, with one-third identifying as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color
  • the fellows the institute will train
  • the translational goals the institute will pursue in the field

The leadership team is composed of psychologists, social workers, educational policy specialists, community health experts, epidemiologists, lawyers, and political scientists across two schools and four departments at BC. The diverse cohort of faculty, all of whom focus on early childhood, engage in collaborative grants, research projects, curriculum development, and student training in a range of combinations, highlighting the institute’s ability to work collaboratively.

  • The institute is led by Director Rebekah Levine Coley, Assistant Director Summer Hawkins, and a diverse team of scholars focused on building a sustainable and forward-facing research and training institute to promote training of future leaders, rigorous science, and research translation. 

  • The leadership team hails from four departments and two schools and one-third identifies as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color.

  • Adopting a reciprocal model, the institute will leverage and expand its relationships with other scholars and institutions interested in early childhood policy through collaborative efforts to develop an expanded professional network for its fellows. 

  • IECP will pay particular attention to the local community. As a member of the Boston Consortium for Higher Education, the institute will serve as a model for other institutes of higher education in the northeast that are part of its university network, and will help to expand national and international capacity in early childhood policy training and leadership. 

  • Master’s and doctoral student fellows accepted into the ECPL certificate program will be integrated in all activities to provide a rich learning experience that transcends typical disciplinary and program boundaries. Fellows drawn from multiple disciplines and programs will bring diverse perspectives based on their level of training and area of focus, whether that’s research, community advocacy, or clinical social work. By combining diverse students, we seek to create a more integrated, holistic training experience for ECPL fellows that will broaden their learning, grow a shared ECPL identity, and provide deeper skills in individual areas of interest.

  • The IECP will broaden the reach and impact of the leadership team’s own research, policy, advocacy, and dissemination efforts in national and international contexts by distributing their work through the institute, heightening impact while also training and engaging fellows in these activities. The institute’s collaborations with local, national, and international internship placement sites will increase connections between research, policy, and practice partners, providing further venues for broader impact in the field of early childhood policy.

Boston College was selected to partner with the Early Childhood Policy in Institutions of Higher Education Initiative at Columbia University after a rigorous, competitive national application process. BC IECP is one of five centers funded through this initiative, which also includes centers at the University of California at Berkeley, University of Colorado Denver, University of Florida, and University of Washington. This growing consortium of ECP centers across the country will be supported through an online network coordinated through the University of Washington, and will partner with an alliance of additional universities. The initiative is initially funded by the Heising-Simons Foundation, with additional funding from Buffett Early Childhood Fund, Bezos Foundation, and Stranahan Foundation. Additional fundraising efforts will assure the longevity and sustainability of the BC IECP.

Meet our Leadership Team


Lynch School of Education & Human Development

School of Social Work