Summary: Early Childhood Institute

The Dart Center is offering a four-day reporting institute for international journalists on early childhood experience and the developing brain, March 9-12, 2017 at Columbia Journalism School in New York City. The application deadline has passed.

During a child’s first seven years, the brain is developing rapidly, forming complex connections that are the foundation for strong physical health, cognitive functioning and emotional relationships. Experiences in these earliest years are directly linked to the ability to succeed and thrive in life.

Many journalists understand that children worldwide are profoundly affected by violence, poverty, war and displacement. Yet reporters are often under-prepared to report knowledgeably on policies and programs centered on early childhood development - cost-effective, evidence-based ways to disrupt intergenerational cycles of poverty and violence, level the playing field, and build peaceful societies. Despite dramatic developments in neuroscience, the importance of nurturing early brain development is not sufficiently reflected in the news agenda, and as a consequence is inadequately understood by the public or reflected in the priorities of global civil society.

To help journalists and news organizations around the world improve their reporting on early childhood experience and brain development, the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, a project of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, is offering a reporting institute March 9-12, 2017. The institute is designed for reporters covering a wide range of issues, from local education and social policy to refugees, conflict and international public health. It will focus on advancements in neuroscience and their implications for child development, concentrating especially on vulnerable children living in extreme poverty and constantly changing, unstable environments. The institute will also address national and international policy on health, education and related fields. Other topics may include early language development, impacts of stress on early brain development, successful intervention models and the influence of technology.

The institute will include panels and presentations by experts in neuroscience, child development, health, economics, sociology and education, as well as journalist-to-journalist seminars on how to translate these issues and themes into meaningful stories and relevant, captivating news coverage. The institute aims to share knowledge, encourage deeper reporting and foster lasting relationships between journalists and international researchers, scholars and experts. Speakers include:

  • Jack P. Shonkoff MD, Director, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University
  • Kimberly Noble, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University
  • David Van Essen, PhD, Alumni Endowed Professor of Neurobiology, Washington University in St Louis and Principal Investigator, Human Connectome Project
  • Rana Dajani, PhD, Founder and Director, We Love Reading, Jordan
  • James F. Leckman, MD, PhD, Neison Harris Professor, Child Study Center and Professor of Pediatrics, Yale University 
  • Stacy Drury, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Vice Chair of Research, Department of Pediatrics, Tulane University
  • Pia Rebello Britto, PhD, Chief of Early Childhood Development, UNICEF
  • Ann S. Masten, PhD, Regents Professor, Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Development, Distinguished McKnight University Professor, University of Minnesota
  • Chip Walter, Journalist, Author, “The Last Ape Standing”
  • Nat Kendall Taylor, PhD, Chief Executive Officer, The FrameWorks Institute 
  • Kate McLaughlin, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Stress and Development Lab, University of Washington
  • Flávio Cunha, PhD, Associate Professor of Economics, Rice University
  • Aisha Yousafzai, PhD, Associate Professor of Global Health, T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University
  • Lisa Guernsey, Director of Early Education Initiative, New America Foundation
  • Karen Brown, Senior Reporter, New England Public Radio
  • Michael Wessells, PhD, Professor, Program on Forced Migration and Health, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University   
  • Lynne Jones, PhD, Child Psychiatrist, Writer, Researcher, Relief Worker, Cornwall Partnerships NHS Foundation Trust
  • Michele Neuman, Ph.D., Program Director, Center for Education Innovation, Results 4 Development 
  • Maureen Black, PhD, Clinical Professor, University of Maryland School of Medicine

  • Carina Vance, Executive Director, South American Institute of Governance in Health of UNASUR (Union of South American Nations)

  • Beatrice Ogutu, Director, IGS SP, Nairobi, Kenya

  • Jeffrey Kluger, Editor at Large, Time Magazine

  • Lindsay Adams, Education Specialist, Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER-ECD), The World Bank

  • Shane Kahn, PhD, Household Survey Specialist, Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), UNICEF

  • Jeff Kelly Lowenstein, Data Journalist and Lecturer, Columbia Journalism School

Participation is open to English-speaking reporters, editors, news directors, photographers and producers with at least five years of experience working in print, broadcast and online media. Staff, contract and freelance journalists are eligible to apply. Thirty-five journalists from around the world will be selected for the institute. All costs associated with attending (i.e. air or train fare, ground transportation to and from NYC airports, hotel accommodations and meals during the institute) will be covered by the Dart Center. Note: US journalists are also eligible to apply.

This reporting institute has been made possible by UNICEF, the Ford Foundation, the Jacobs Foundation, the Bernard van Leer Foundation. The Dart Center also wishes to thank the Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal Foundation for its support.


The application deadline has passed.

Applicants will be notified with a decision on their application by December 19, 2016.

If you have any questions or need additional information, please email Kate Black at [email protected]