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As first group of fellows graduates, Erikson expands leadership and policy influence

New programming through the Early Childhood Leadership Academy will help leaders make informed decisions that impact children and families.

A year after launching a fellowship for mid-career leaders, Erikson Institute is celebrating the graduation of that program’s first cohort while looking forward to the launch of a second program for judges, civic leaders, elected officials, and other highly influential decision makers that will deepen their understanding of issues that impact early childhood.

In 2016, Erikson introduced a strategic vision and plan with an explicit focus on executing leadership and policy initiatives leveraging Erikson’s talent and contributions to the field. Both leadership initiatives — the Barbara Bowman Leadership Fellows and the new McCormick Foundation Executive Fellows — represent Erikson’s commitment to preparing leaders who can influence early childhood policy.

During a ceremony in February, the first 11 graduates of the Barbara Bowman Leadership fellows accepted their certificates and shared stories about their experiences in the eight-month program. Although many work for agencies and organizations that serve children and families, the program was their first in-depth look at how they themselves can shape policy that impacts those they serve.

The Barbara Bowman Leadership Fellows program is designed for mid-career child advocates who work in a variety of settings, including schools, nonprofits, and government agencies. It facilitates a deeper understanding of child development along with instilling skills and providing tools to help positively influence policy for children, families, and communities.

The second cohort of Barbara Bowman Leadership Fellows will begin later this year, as will the new McCormick Executive Fellows program.

Generously funded by a $200,000 grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the new program is expected to launch this summer, with the first cohort of fellows convening in August. The McCormick Foundation Executive Fellows program expands Erikson’s Early Childhood Leadership Academy offerings and ongoing commitment to support leaders and influence policy in the early childhood field.

“Through this new program, a diverse cross-section of leaders will gain foundational knowledge of how children develop as well as how they can apply that knowledge to policy decisions they make in their respective sectors,” says Cristina Pacione-Zayas, Ph.D., director of policy at Erikson. “Time spent as fellows will help some of our most influential leaders make decisions that lead to positive outcomes for children, families, and communities.”

The Early Childhood Leadership Academy is also piloting an early childhood-focused board training program for leaders currently serving on the boards of early childhood-focused organizations. Program objectives include familiarizing participants’ with child development research, field specific terminology and programs, and challenges unique to the early childhood system. The program seeks to provide effective, informed and relevant support for organizations with missions to create better outcomes for children and families across Illinois. The program will launch this spring.