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Erikson Institute's Executive Fellows 2019 Cohort

Executive Fellows

Learn how child development contributes to your work.

See Who is in the 2022 Cohort See Past Participants

Investing in Early Childhood Leads to Lifetime Benefits

Improve the life trajectory of a child by investing in early childhood programs and services. Your support can lead to children’s academic achievement, improved health, economic stability, and future success.


Broader benefits to society include:

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Strong and productive future workforce 

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Healthier and safer environments

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Economic growth associated with reduced costs for interventions later in life

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Better earnings for children in the future

Executive Fellows Affect Change Across Multiple Levels 

As a highly influential decision-maker on policies that affect children and families on a local, regional, or state level, the Executive Fellows program uses an anti-racism approach to introduce you to the long-term benefits of quality early childhood experiences and the policy opportunities to improve programs and services for all children and families.

Erikson Institute Executive Fellows Lt. Gov Stratton and Congressman Chuy Garcia

Leaders Like You Are Needed

Cross-disciplinary experts benefit from child development knowledge

Are you or do you know an Illinois leader? We accept nominations from a cross-sector of leaders for the Executive Fellows program, and have included legislative officials, state’s attorneys, judges, school board members, superintendents, state agency heads, faith-based leaders, and additional community leaders.

Build knowledge to inform decision-making in your field and improve programs and services for children and families.

This program happens every other summer in August and September.

Ask us about the program

The Executive Fellows Experience Supports Child-Centered Solutions

Heidi Mueller
Heidi Mueller
Director, Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice
“ The experience reinforced how infrequently children are the focus of our decision-making, and how different our systems would be if our focus was child-centered. ”

Empowering Leaders Through Dynamic Learning Experiences

A Six-Day Professional Development Opportunity to Boost Critical Thinking on Early Childhood

Leaders participate in multi-day sessions in August and September with national experts leading seminars each day on topics such as brain development, relationship attachment theory, toxic stress and trauma, workforce shortages, racial inequities, and more. Staff provide a safe environment that fosters candid discussions as well as ensures the cohort is constructed with distinct and diverse perspectives.

Connect with policy staff

The program gives you a lens to:

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Thoughtfully examine how policies affect young children and families

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Shift legislative policy to dismantle barriers and ensure families equitable access to resources

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Understand the importance of your influence and role in addressing racial equity issues

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Increase investments in early childhood programs and services

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Change organizational policies and procedures

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Engage community voices in the decision-making process.

Mayor Katrina Thompson participating in the Executive Fellows' Service Day

Service Day

A Distinct Feature of the Executive Fellows Program

Enjoy the opportunity to volunteer at a Chicago home- or center-based early learning program for half of a day.

Assisting early childhood teachers in the classroom helps reinforce the learning objectives and expert presentations delivered over the course of the program. This experience allows insight into early workforce issues such as low wages, staffing shortages and professional development.

MFEF Program Impact: Pastor Chris Harris
Pastor Chris Harris participating in the Erikson Executive Fellows' Service Day

Executive Fellows Program Impact

Walking in the shoes of an educator changed Pastor Harris’ perspective and his work in the community.

Along with leaders in the legislative, justice, educational, and governmental sectors, Pastor Chris Harris of Bright Star Church spent a day shadowing early educators — and was nothing short of floored by his experience in the program.

Executive Fellows Impacting Early Childhood Policy

Jim Rowe
Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe
Executive Fellow, 2019
Rowe implemented the Adverse Childhood Experiences measurement tool in the county’s juvenile court system to better understand youth coming through the courts and established support services for them.
Colette Payne
Executive Fellow-Special Trauma Session, 2020 
Payne turned her focus to how trauma impacts parents within the legal system with her work at the Women’s Justice Institute, amplify the voices of women in the system to end unjust incarceration.
Jesus Chuy Garcia
Congressman Jesus “Chuy” Garcia
Executive Fellow, 2017 
Garcia designated a staff member on his team to monitor early childhood policy at the federal level. This is a significant move in prioritizing early childhood as congressional members are not required to designate staff in this capacity.