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News & Press April 2023

Inside Erikson | April 2023

a monthly comm(unity) newsletter

April 2023 - Welcome to the April edition of the Inside Erikson newsletter!

Spring is here and Erikson Institute is ready to “spring” into action to advocate for the rights of young children and early childhood education. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Autism Acceptance Month, and this week is NAEYC’s Week of the Young Child. In addition to raising awareness for each of these causes, our Policy and Leadership team will be on the scene April 18 in Springfield, IL for Early Childhood Advocacy Day. We encourage you all to lend your voice and join us in advocating for early learning and care in Illinois, register here.

President’s Advisory Council Update

At the President’s Advisory Council meeting on Wednesday, March 29th, Director of Development, Patty Offer continued her presentation on supportive supervision and strengths-based evaluation. Executive Director of Marketing and Admissions, Amy Mikel, also presented the updates to the admissions department structure, as well as her strategy for recruitment. The main takeaways from the meeting were:

  • The goals of a supportive supervisory relationship are building and repairing trust, communication and autonomy.
  • Arika Tucker recently joined Erikson as the Director of Admissions. She and Amy will collaborate on building a strategic plan for admissions that aligns with Erikson’s strategic plan.
  • Recruitment of students has transitioned to mostly online efforts and has been very successful.

Month at a Glance

Arab American Heritage Month

Autism Acceptance Month

National Child Abuse Prevention Month

Week of the Young Child (NAEYC) — April 1-7

World Autism Awareness Day — April 2

International Children’s Book Day — April 2

Passover — April 5 – 13

Good Friday — April 7

Easter — April 9

Orthodox Easter — April 16

Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Day of Remembrance) — April 18

Early Childhood Advocacy Day — April 18

Earth Day — April 22

Decolonizing Data and Language (pt.1) — April 27 & 28

Erikson Updates

Home-Based Child-Care webinar

Erikson researcher, Dr. Juliet Bromer, recently participated in a BUILD initiative webinar titled “HBCC: The Importance of Home-Based Educator Wellness in Equitable Early Childhood Systems.” Along with Dr. Bromer, the webinar featured Shayla Collins (UW Center for Child & Family Well-Being) and DeCarla Burton (Supporting Professional Network Association/SPNA) and focused on the importance of home-based childcare educator wellness in creating equitable early childhood systems. Watch the full webinar

Samantha Melvin joins the 2023 SRCD Fellowship Program

Congratulations to Erikson Assistant Research Scientist, Samantha Melvin, for being selected to join the Society for Research in Child Development’s 2023 Early Career Interdisciplinary Scholars Fellowship Program. “Through the SRCD Early Career Interdisciplinary Scholars Fellowship Program, Sam is excited to learn from like-minded researchers about how interdisciplinarity, collaboration, and community-building can inform more justice-oriented research, policy, and practice for young children.” Read the full announcement

Erikson Institute in Springfield, IL

Left to Right: Erikson President Mariana Souto-Manning and Senator Crisina Pacione-Zayas

Left to Right: Erikson President Mariana Souto-Manning and Senator Crisina Pacione-Zayas

Left to Right: Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas and Associate Vice President of Clinical and Community Services Andria Goss

Left to Right: Erikson President Mariana Souto-Manning and Senator Crisina Pacione-Zayas

On March 8, Erikson President Dr. Mariana Souto-Manning joined Erikson advisor and Illinois Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas in Springfield, IL for “Making the Case: Why Should We Invest in the Early Years?” a subject matter hearing for the Early Childhood Education committee. Associate Vice President of Clinical and Community Services, Andria Goss, also testified at the Early Childhood Education Committee hearing on March 22, to support Gov Pritzker’s “Smart Start Illinois” plan for supporting infant and early childhood mental health. Thank you to Senator Pacione-Zayas for the invitation to speak about the benefits of investing in early childhood development.

Arika Tucker, Director of Admissions

Arika Tucker, Director of Admissions

Erikson Institute welcomes a new Director of Admissions, Arika Tucker. The Director of Admissions Provides leadership and strategic planning for Erikson’s graduate admissions with the aim of enrolling high-quality students and achieving enrollment goals in alignment with the Institute’s policies, priorities, and timelines. In addition to leading our Admissions team, Arika will be responsible for developing and implementing a dynamic recruitment program for graduate students, managing selection processes and enhancing the operations and technologies for admissions. Arika’s role directly ties to our first strategic priority of growing and diversifying the early childhood workforce via new student growth.

Maxine McKinney de Royston, Ph. D, Erikson’s first Dean of Faculty

Dr. Maxine McKinney de Royson

Dr. Maxine McKinney de Royston comes to Erikson from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she currently serves as Associate Professor of Curriculum & Instruction. She earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in Education as well as a DSW from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to her appointment as tenured Associate Professor at UW-Madison, Dr. McKinney de Royston held prestigious Post-Doctoral Fellowships from the Spencer and Ford Foundations. She has received a number of awards and fellowships in teaching and research. Maxine McKinney de Royston speaks several languages, including Portuguese, Guaraní (Paraguay) and Haitian Kreyòle. She is also fluent in English, Spanish, and Tetun (Timor-Leste). Maxine McKinney de Royston will begin her new role on August 1, when she will become Dean McKinney de Royston. To learn more about Maxine’s research, experience, and teaching, visit:

Ayanna F. Brown, Ph.D, Erikson’s first Associate Vice President for Justice Equity Diversity Inclusion

Dr. Ayanna F. Brown

Dr. Ayanna F. Brown comes to Erikson from Elmhurst University, where she serves as Associate Professor of Education and Cultural Studies, Coordinator for the English Language Arts major, and Ombudsperson. Previously, she served as Associate Chair of Curriculum & Professional Development.Dr. Brown holds a B.S. from Tuskegee University in Language Arts Education, M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instructional Leadership from Vanderbilt University Peabody College, and Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in Language, Literacy and Sociology. Her research focuses on discussions of “race,” contemporary African American studies, and discourse analysis. Dr. Brown was Chair of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Assembly for Research (2013-2014). Dr. Ayanna F. Brown will begin August 1. To learn more about Associate Vice-President Ayanna F. Brown visit: and/or

Farewell to Erikson Faculty

Three respected members of our world-class faculty will be leaving Erikson to pursue exciting new roles at renowned institutions across the Midwest. While we are sad to see them go, we celebrate the impact they have made here at Erikson and know that the expertise and insight they carry with them will continue to advance equity and justice in the early childhood field.

Samina Hadi-Tabassum, EdDClinical Associate Professor and Director, Child Life/ Director, Child Development / Director, School and Community Partnerships

Samina Hadi-Tabassum

Samina will be joining Elmhurst University as their first-ever Dean of the School of Education where she will oversee multiple departments including elementary and secondary education and the master’s degree in educational leadership. She will work with faculty to develop new programs, bring in funding for research and scholarship, and partner with external organizations for development.

Cassandra McKay-Jackson, PhD, LCSWDirector, MSW Program and Associate Professor 

Cassandra McKay-Jackson

Cassandra will be “returning home” to serve as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Student Services at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) Jane Addams College of Social Work (JACSW) where she was a faculty member for 17 years. She will support more than 30 faculty members and over 200 students in concert with the Dean of the College.

Crystasany Turner, Ph.D.Assistant Professor

Crystasany R. Turner, PhD

Crystasany will leave Chicago to serve as Assistant Professor at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, where she received her doctoral degree in Urban Education-Curriculum and Instruction, and where she and her family currently live.

Teacher Licensure Program Gaining Momentum—Spread the Word

Erikson’s reimagined Teacher Licensure program is getting attention from local media.

Dr. Meghan Gowin joined Sonja Crum Knight from Carole Robertson Center for Learning and April Janney from Illinois Action for Children on WTTW’s Black Voices to discuss Governor Pritzker’s proposed budget to invest in early care and education programs and workforce. Watch the full segment. Dr. Gowin also lends her expertise to Chalkbeat for “How will Chicago’s next mayor shape early childhood education? Advocates warn of challenges ahead.” Read the article

Chicago Parent recently published an article about how our new triple endorsement certification program prepares qualified educators, featuring Dr. Sandra Osorio, Erikson’s Director of Teacher Education. Read the full article. Early Learning Nation, an independent magazine devoted to early learning, also featured Erikson’s triple endorsement master’s degree program and Dr. Sandra Osorio.

Prospective students are applying for the program, and we need to keep promoting it. Please spread the word in your networks about this innovative approach to becoming a licensed teacher with endorsements in early childhood education, special education, and bilingual/ESL. Full tuition funding is available for recipients of our Educator Impact Grants. Please direct interested persons to our MSECE page on to learn more. Thank you!

Project Connect Now Enrolling

Project Connect is now enrolling Kindergarten teachers for the 2023-24 school year. This one-year, fully funded professional development program will improve your ability to observe, document and interpret children’s behavior and thinking using the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS). Our information sessions are free and open to teachers and administrators. We will provide an overview of the program and answer questions about the application process. Learn more about and how to apply

Upcoming Erikson Events

Summer Learning Series Seminars

This summer, Erikson Institute will offer many opportunities to hone the skills of early childhood professionals, growing your capacity to work effectively with young children and their families.

Our summer learning series of seminars offers many options to a wide variety of professionals in the field of early childhood. These virtual and in-person workshops are hosted by Erikson experts who will lead participants through an in-depth exploration of three different topics: The Power of Relationships (also offered in Spanish); MEME: Meaning-Making in Early Mathematics Education, and Nurturing Math Thinking with Infants, Toddler, and 2s.

Faculty Spotlight

Erikson Institute’s reputation in the early childhood field has been strengthened by the contributions of our world-renowned faculty. Learn more about this dynamic group and what makes them stand out.

Meet Assistant Professor Abigail Palmer Molina

Abigail Palmer Molina

Name: Abigail Palmer Molina

Faculty Member since: 2022

Of all the colleges and universities worldwide, why did you decide to teach at Erikson? I came to Erikson because of its unique focus on early childhood, particularly within its Master of Social Work program. As a social worker focused on infant and early childhood mental health, I appreciate that Erikson offers one of the only programs in the country to infuse this content directly into the curriculum. I also appreciate the opportunity to integrate my research with practice and policy.

What has been the most rewarding moment in your career at Erikson?

In my short time here so far I have enjoyed working with students in the online MSW program. It has been very rewarding to meet students from different backgrounds with extensive knowledge and experience in the field and then help them begin their social work journey. I had heard from other faculty that the students at Erikson are amazing, and it is true!

What is your hidden (or secret) talent?

One of my first loves was playing music, particularly the upright piano my great-grandmother gave me. Although it’s been quite some time, I still like to play a favorite tune once in a while.

Erikson in the News

Director of Erikson’s Child Development program, Dr. Samina Hadi Tabassum, was recently featured in a The Washington Post article titled “10 Questions to Ask when Choosing a Day Care Provider” where she shared her expertise and recommendations for discovery-based learning. WP subscribers can read more here.

Associate Director of Center for Children and Families, Sara Phou and Project Coordinator, Michelle Saulnier, recently co-authored an article for Zero to Three titled “Diversity-Informed Reflective Consultation and Radical Healing: A New Paradigm for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Providers Serving Immigrant Families. Read the full article here.

About Erikson

Graduate Education

Recognized for our groundbreaking work in the field of early childhood, Erikson specializes in preparing child development, education, and social work leaders to improve the lives of young children, families, and their communities. For more information on our degree and certificate programs, visit our website or email our admissions team.

Clinical and Community Services

Erikson’s Center for Children and Families offers pediatric mental health services for children birth to age 8 and their families. Services can be provided in both English and Spanish, and are available to families regardless of their ability to pay.

Policy and Leadership

Erikson’s Policy and Leadership department engages leaders in government, business, and nonprofit sectors to inform effective policies that benefit children and families. They offer unique programming that equips decision-makers and influencers with the resources, skills, and deep knowledge about early childhood development that will support their efforts to make lasting change. Learn more about our Policy and Leadership

Give to Erikson

The first 1,800 days of life set the stage for a child’s long-term physical and emotional health, socioeconomic trajectory, life expectancy, happiness, and well-being. Can we count on you to make a gift to strengthen our ability to serve children and families, as well as our students, faculty, and staff, during this time? Your support for Erikson prepares the heroes in young children’s lives—teachers, social workers, civic leaders, parents and caregivers—to get them safely through this crisis so they can soar into promising futures. Please donate here

More Ways to Connect

Learn more about Erikson’s Early Math Collaborative and TEC Center.

Join the Erikson family with monthly news + events updates shared by academics, community members, and families.

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