Building Partnerships for Effective Advocacy: Connections with The Mills College School of Education
An important step in building a national movement to promote the importance of the children’s first three years, is to strengthen the professional workforce responsible for working with infants, toddlers and their families during these pivotal years. The Mills College School of Education (www.mills.edu/education) is doing just this by preparing high quality early childhood professionals to work as leaders in diverse communities, partnering with families and cross-disciplinary professionals, to optimize young children’s learning, developmental trajectories and overall well-being. Unique aspects of the Mills program include a strong integration of theory and research with field placements and practice in diverse early childhood settings across the bay area, an emphasis on developing dispositions for inquiry and ongoing critical reflection to guide professional practice, using a strengths-based relational approach in working with children, families and colleagues, cultivating a deep respect for diversity and cultural variation, and developing early childhood leaders committed to improving social justice and equity for vulnerable children and families often living in our most underserved communities.
Individuals interested in gaining knowledge and expertise in the infant-toddler years at Mills have several opportunities for study including undergraduate majors in child development or psychology and five options for graduate education: 1) Master’s degree in education with an emphasis in early childhood education—provides students with a strong foundation in child development and developmentally appropriate practices with a focus on early childhood teaching or administration and policy, 2) Master’s degree in education with an emphasis in child life— prepares students to become certified Child Life Specialists with specialized training to respond to the developmental, social, and emotional needs of children and their families in traumatic situations and to mitigate the impact of the trauma and preserve basic developmental pathways and family support systems in hospitals and community settings, 3) Master’s degree in early childhood education combined with the Special Education credential—prepares individuals to work with infants and young children with developmental disabilities and their families in early intervention and preschool special education settings, 4) Master’s degree in infant mental health— an interdisciplinary program (education and psychology) that provides students with the skills and knowledge to become practitioners or clinical researchers that specialize in working with children from birth through age five. Infant mental health as a profession aims to promote healthy social and emotional development within the context of family, community, and cultural expectations for young children, and 5) Master’s or doctoral (Ed.D) degree emphasizing leadership in early childhood—a program for working professionals experienced in the field of early childhood, with a focus on leadership theories and leadership development, family and child policies and funding streams, effective advocacy and coalition building, and developing the skills to influence positive change in organizations and across the field of early childhood.
A commitment shared among faculty and students in the School of Education is the development of collaborative partnerships with individuals and organizations doing important work on behalf of children and families in our local communities. As a result, it was no surprise that several of Mills students and alumni were eager to volunteer on the “For our Babies” Campaign! We are thrilled that Jean Kurnik (MA, ECE Leadership 2011), Jenna McAnulty (MA, ECE Leadership 2012), Claire Boss (MA, ECE 2012), Chris Carducci (2nd year EdD student, ECE Leadership) and Sara Bonetti (incoming EdD student, ECE Leadership) are supporting this important national movement by reviewing empirical research on topics central to the Campaign’s 4 pillars—e.g., prenatal care, paid leave/well baby care, screening and follow up services, quality infant and toddler care, access and barriers to infant-toddler services, pilot projects on a state and national level, qualifications of providers and international comparisons. We thank the “For our Babies” Campaign for creating opportunities for our Mills students and alumni to apply their skills and knowledge in such a valuable and meaningful “real” context. It is inspiring to partner with organizations like WestEd to collectively advocate for the importance of increasing public investments in the lives and tremendous potential of our youngest children.
Julie Nicholson, Ph.D.