Growing up, Mark Nagasawa, PhD, saw firsthand the value in providing high-quality care and education to young children. His mother and sister were both Head Start teachers, while his aunt was an in-home child care provider. “That’s how I got my first training — observing, taking care of other children, and being taken care of myself,” he says.
Today, his passion remains addressing the needs of children and families. As a researcher, he explores the role communities play in children’s well-being and longer-term life chances.
“It’s all well and good for us to have programs like part-day preschool, but they can’t deliver on their full potential for children when families are worrying about full-day child care, affordable housing, living wages, and neighborhood safety,” he says.
Among his research projects is a study of “collective impact initiatives” across Illinois. Each of these groups represents a collaboration among school districts, early childhood providers, parents, public health agencies, social service organizations, philanthropic entities, and municipal governments. Through this collaboration, these groups are finding ways for communities to support all of the children and families who live there. Dr. Nagasawa’s primary goal is to understand how these community groups are advocating for equitable distribution of resources and policy changes.
As a professor, Dr. Nagasawa prepares the next generation of leaders striving to serve children and families by using their knowledge of child development to transform their practice. All of his courses are rooted in a central question: What is the role of professionals in addressing the pressing social problems of their day? He encourages students to actively and collaboratively pursue answers by viewing themselves and their work through a “critical socio-cultural lens.” In doing so, they are able to consider how their personal traits and backgrounds, including racial identity, social class, and upbringing, shape their worldviews and, therefore, their work with children and parents.
Students in his courses can anticipate a rigorous experience as they learn to apply theoretical knowledge about child development to real-world situations, such as environmental racism and classism, barriers to affordable housing, employment, safe neighborhoods, and access to high-quality, culturally responsive early care and education.
- BA in political science, University of Arizona
- MSW, Arizona State University
- PhD in curriculum and instruction with a cognate in anthropology, Arizona State University
Areas of Expertise
- Cultural studies
- Education and social policy
- Participatory research and evaluation
- Intersection of early childhood and adult education
- Collective action
- The Illinois Early Development Instrument Pilot Project
- West Chicago Collective Impact Study
- YMCA Early Learning Quality Initiative Evaluation
- Educare West DuPage Implementation Study
- See more
- Nagasawa, M.K. (Forthcoming). Considering an ideal early childhood system: A case study of Arizona’s early efforts. Early Childhood Research and Practice, 17(2).
- Nagasawa, M.K., & Swadener, B.B. (2017) Be/longing: Reciprocal mentoring, pedagogies of place, and critical childhood studies in the time of Trump. Global Studies of Childhood, 7(2).
- Nagasawa, M.K. (2015). Arizona’s “Success by Six” legislative package: A case study of strategic framing. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 29(2), 244-258.
- See more
- Connor, K., & Nagasawa, M.K. (2017, June). Education mandates and impacts on workforce diversity: Speaking out. Discussion session at the National Association for the Education of Young Children Professional Learning Institute. San Francisco, CA.
- Vasquez, J., & Nagasawa, M.K. (2017, June). The Illinois Early Development Instrument Pilot Project: Using population data for B3 continuity. Presentation at the Illinois Birth to Third Grade Continuity Conference. Bloomington, IL.
- Swadener, B.B., & Nagasawa, M. (2015, April). Time to come from the shadows: Reflections on reciprocal mentoring and a “new” activist scholarship. In L.E. Peters, & B.B. Swadener (Chairs), Reciprocal mentoring for critical, activist scholarship. Panel at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Chicago, IL.
- See more
Related professional experience
- Preschool teacher, social worker, and program director
- Policy analyst in the Arizona Governor’s Office
- Early childhood special education program specialist with the Arizona Department of Education