Jul 11 2024

From Neurons to Nation: Early Learning that Fosters Democratic Ideals

Grantmakers for Education


July 11, 2:00 pm ET

Can early learning environments foster democratic ideals? Is our democracy in crisis, teetering on the verge of implosion, or is our country still in its infancy, and these are just growing pains we can respond to with love and nurturing?

In the lead-up to the 2024 election, Trust for Learning, Grantmakers for Education and the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative will co-host a provocative series connecting the dots on children’s formative experiences in publicly-funded learning environments and our country’s democratic ideals. We'll explore what encompasses an ideal learning environment, one that not only supports children’s cognitive, emotional and academic development, but also creates the foundation for the realization of our shared civic aims.

While it may at times feel that democracy is in peril, the United States is still in its formative years - in a sensitive period that we can respond to with presence, vision and love. How will we shape the future of a peaceful, multiracial, just and free democracy through investments in our youngest community members?

In the first program, Dr. Iheoma Iruka will kick off the series with Dr. Fabienne Doucet and a panel of experts, to be announced soon.

While others are welcome to attend, this event is intended for members and education grantmakers.

There is no cost to attend this Grantmakers for Education program. Registration closes 15 minutes prior to the program time. By registering for this program, you agree to our Learning Environment Commitment. Thank you for your patience; we review each registration in advance.

Thank you to our cohosts, Early Childhood Funders Collaborative and Trust for Learning.

About the Speaker

Dr. Fabienne Doucet

Dr. Fabienne Doucet
Executive Director
New York University Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools

Fabienne Doucet is Executive Director of the NYU Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools and Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education and Urban Education in the department of Teaching & Learning at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. She is an affiliated faculty member of the NYU Institute for Human Development and Social Change and Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Born in Spain, raised in Haiti, and migrating to the U.S. at the age of ten, Doucet embodies a hybrid identity that is mirrored in her interdisciplinary approach to examining how immigrant and U.S.-born children of color and their families navigate education in the United States. A critical ethnographer, Doucet studies how taken-for-granted beliefs, practices, and values in the U.S. educational system position linguistically, culturally, and socioeconomically diverse children and families at a disadvantage, and seeks active solutions for meeting their educational needs. Doucet has published in numerous journals including Child Development, Teachers College Record, Anthropology and Education Quarterly and is author of the forthcoming children’s picture book Love is Still Winning (Lil’ Libros Press). She currently serves on multiple national editorial and advisory boards and lectures nationally on issues of equity, anti-racism, and humanizing research and practice. Doucet has a Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies from UNC-Greensboro and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education with fellowships from the National Science Foundation and the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation.

Dr. Iheoma U. Iruka

Dr. Iheoma U. Iruka
Research Professor, Department of Public Policy
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Iheoma U. Iruka, Ph.D., is an award-winning research professor in the Department of Public Policy and founding director of the Equity Research Action Coalition at FPG UNC-Chapel Hill. She will begin as tenured Professor of Maternal Child Health at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC in the fall. As an applied developmental psychologist, Iheoma is focused on ensuring that minoritized children and children from low-income households thrive during the prenatal through early childhood period through the intersection of anti-bias, anti-racist and culturally grounded research, program and policy. Her specialty is in early childhood development, adult-child interactions and relationship, and policy and program improvement through anti-racist and cultural wealth approaches.

Ellen Roche

Ellen Roche
Chief Media and Philanthropy Officer
Trust for Learning

Ellen leads media, philanthropic, and racial equity efforts at the Trust and studies infant and toddler brain and emotional development at University of Maryland. Prior to joining Trust for Learning, Ellen taught English and music to children from Pre-K to high school and developed issue-based storytelling campaigns as a consultant. While earning her Master’s of Education at Harvard University, she studied the history of progressive, democratic education in the U.S., civic education, and antiracist pedagogy.

As a developing scientist, she is focused on bringing antiracist practice into academic research and led the development of Trust for Learning’s evidence brief in early 2022. At the Trust, she works closely with our board and philanthropic funders to steward the organization’s development and aims to incorporate antiracism and inclusion in all areas of our work. Through our media efforts, Ellen amplifies the voices of colleagues around the country as they work toward ideal learning environments for all young children from birth – age eight. In her spare time, she volunteers to get people around the U.S. registered to vote  – during the 2022 midterms she organized a group of volunteers to reach out to more than a million prospective voters in swing states.


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