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Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy

Marsico Institute

About Us

MIELL works in collaboration with faculty across the University of Denver who are interested in early childhood research and policy.



Douglas Clements, Ph.D.

Dr. Clements (Executive Director of Marsico Institute)

Douglas Clements, Ph.D., is currently the Executive Director of the Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy. He is also the Kennedy Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning and a Professor at the University of Denver's Morgridge College of Education.

Previously a kindergarten teacher for five years and a preschool teacher for one year, he has since conducted research and published widely in the areas of:

The learning and teaching of early mathematics

Computer applications in mathematics education

Creating, using, and evaluating a research-based curriculum and in taking successful curricula to scale using technologies and learning trajectories

Development and evaluation of innovative assessments of mathematics achievement, as well as mathematics teaching

While a SUNY Distinguished Professor at the University of Buffalo, he was a member of President Bush's National Math Advisory Panel, convened to advise the administration on the best use of scientifically based research to advance the teaching and learning of mathematics, and coauthor of the Panel's report. He was also a member of the National Research Council's Committee on Early Mathematics and co-author of their report. He helped develop the Common Core State Standards committee of the National Governor's Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, writing national academic standards and the learning trajectories that underlie them.

Currently, Julie Sarama and he are conducting several research projected funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES). For example, "Scaling Up TRIAD: Teaching Early Mathematics for Understanding with Trajectories and Technologies" and " Longitudinal Study of a successful scaling up project Extending TRIAD" are the third and fourth large research projects funded by the IES to evaluate our model for scaling up successful educational innovations (TRIAD = Technology-enhanced, Research-based Instruction, Assessment, and professional Development). Two recent research projects have just been funded by the NSF. In "Using Rule Space and Poset-based Adaptive Testing Methodologies to Identify Ability Patterns in Early Mathematics and Create a Comprehensive Mathematics Ability Test," we are developing a computer-adaptive assessment for early mathematics. In "Early Childhood Education in the Context of Mathematics, Science, and Literacy," we are developing an interdisciplinary preschool curriculum. See the "Research Projects" tab of Dr. Clement's Portfolio for more detail.

Doug's CV


Carrie Germeroth, Ph.D.

Dr. Carrie Germeroth

Carrie Germeroth, Ph.D., Assistant Director of Research at the Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy, conducts research and publishes widely in the areas of the social emotional development and early childhood classroom quality. Germeroth currently serves as a member of the Colorado Department of Education’s School Readiness assessment subcommittee tasked with providing recommendations on school readiness assessment design features. Germeroth also served as project manager on the development of Colorado’s Early Learning and Development Guidelines as well as the Pre-Kindergarten Standards for the State of North Dakota. She recently concluded work on an efficacy study examining a curriculum designed to improve executive function in early childhood students for which she was trained by Dr. Adele Diamond on her battery of executive function measures for preschool and kindergarten children. She has extensive experience with early childhood self- regulation and achievement tests (including the Woodcock Johnson, K-BIT, TEMA, TERA, CBQ, BASC, Posner Attention tasks, Delay of Gratification, NEPSY, PPVT, TS GOLD, and Carol Dweck’s motivation paradigm) as well as classroom assessment (CLASS and ELLCO). Germeroth has led the evaluation of the impact of a preschool physical activity program in Head Start on children’s level of activity and teacher’s beliefs about including structured physical activity in the curriculum. She has experience in both quantitative and qualitative evaluation techniques such classroom observations, field study, and management of large databases. Germeroth also provides professional development and technical assistance on Scaffolding Early Learning and Tools of the Mind. She has published research in several peer-reviewed early childhood journals, including the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology and Early Child Development, Care, and Phi Delta Kappan.

Carrie's CV


Melissa S. Mincic, Ph.D.

Dr. Mincic (Assistant Director of Marsico Institute)

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., is currently the Assistant Director of Policy and Practice at the Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy. She has over 12 years of research experience focused on children’s social-emotional and academic development. Her own research has included the development and evaluation of a classroom-based storybook reading intervention designed to enhance preschool-aged children’s emergent literacy and social-emotional skills. 

She has also developed and administered an administrative interview protocol regarding adaptations to early childhood education program policies, practices, and budget allocations necessary to implement a social-emotional program framework with fidelity.

Additionally, she has lead and assisted with small- and large-scale projects encompassing a wide range of research activities, including:

  • Early childhood programming framework approach supporting young children’s social-emotional and academic skills development
  • Development of a social-emotional assessment of school readiness
  • Social-emotional curriculum development and evaluation
  • Early childhood community needs assessments
  • Development of new systems and tools to support services for young and school-aged children

Supporting her own work and collaborative community-based work, Dr. Mincic has won an American Educational Research Association/Institute of Education Sciences Dissertation Fellowship Grant and a Colorado Library Service and Technology Act Grant from the Colorado Department of Education’s Colorado State Library. Previously, Dr. Mincic was selected as a William A. Morrill Public Service Fellow and won the American Educational Research Association Special Interest Group 32 (Early Education and Child Development) Dissertation Award.

She is published in the peer-reviewed journals Early Education and Development, the Journal of Genetic Psychology, Cognition and Emotion, and Learning and Individual Differences and has served as an editor for Early Education and Development and the Journal of International Students. She has presented research and has also reviewed submissions for presentation at professional meetings of the Society for Research in Child Development, the American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association, and the Conference on Human Development.

Also active in the early childhood policy arena, Dr. Mincic currently serves as secretary for the Denver Metro District of the Colorado Association for the Education of Young Children and is a Results Work Group subcommittee co-chair for the Early Childhood Colorado Partnership.

Melissa's CV


Jessica Craig


Jessica Craig, B.A., is the Office Manager and Project Coordinator for the Marsico Institute. Jessica is currently pursuing an M.A. in Counseling Psychology at the University of Denver, Morgridge College of Education. Jessica brings over 12 years of volunteerism and professional involvement in the nonprofit sector. Her talents and work experience include donor management, event coordination, client relations, funding research, contracting, grants and budget management. Formerly an early childhood educator, she has developed young children's curricula and has coordinated numerous early childhood projects. Jessica has worked closely with diverse communities and is highly interested in social-emotional development and its effects on early literacy. Her other interests include early childhood intervention and mental health for children and families. At the Marsico Institute, Jessica manages the day-to-day operation of the office and provides administrative support to the directors. She is committed to advancing the successful execution of the institute's strategic plans, aiding the directors and team in these efforts. She maintains and enhances the institute's website, and coordinates closely with the college's human relations and logistics teams. On the financial side, Jessica manages and oversees institute budgets, as well as prepares grant and contract documents. She is highly skilled in planning and coordinating logistics for special community events, such as the Marsico Institute's Community Lecture Series.


Graduate Students 

Lilian Chimuma

 Photo of Lilian Chimuma

Lilian Chimuma received a B.S. in Statistics from the University of Nairobi, Kenya and a M.A in Mathematics Education from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  As a first year PhD student in Research Methods and Statistics, with a concentration in Education Psychology, Lilian hopes to utilize her expertise and training by contributing to research and evaluation methods in education, especially in Kenya and other developing countries targeted at policies to improve the learning environment. Besides working with students from diverse backgrounds, both in Kenya and the U.S., Lilian student taught both High School and Middle School Mathematics in two Urban School Districts in Cincinnati, and Hamilton, Ohio.  She further tutored student athletes from diverse backgrounds in various mathematics and Statistics subjects at the University of Nebraska. At the Marsico Institute, she is currently working on a video coding project aimed at revising the Building Blocks Learning Trajectories Website on the Heising-Simons project. 

John Ganzar

 John G Picture


John Ganzar is a first year EDD student. Prior to starting his program at the Morgridge College of Education, he worked in Financial Aid Compliance at multiple institutions and taught English as a Second Language (ESL) to adult learners. John is interested in Higher Education Policy and Law theories and research. He hopes to work in Finance or academics within International Higher Education. At the Marsico Institute, he is currently working to revise Building Blocks Learning Trajectories (BBLT) with enhanced videos and functioning that will be available on multiple technology platforms, a project funded by the Heising-Simons Foundation. 



John Garrigan

 John Garrigan ID Photo

John Garrigan is the Website Administration Assistant for the Marsico Institute, and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Library and Information Science at the University of Denver, Morgridge College of Education. He is focusing on young adult and digital librarianship, increasingly overlapping fields, in his studies. John came to DU with a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Connecticut, and worked for a private investigation agency for several years before deciding to go back to school. At the Marsico Institute, John helps maintain the Marsico Institute and Early Childhood Colorado Websites, adding new content when needed, and is in the midst of planning an expansion of their social media presence to expand their influence in the state of Colorado and beyond.



Brittany Johnstone

 Photo of Brittany Johnstone

Brittany is a second year Educational Specialist candidate in the Child, Family, and School Psychology program at the University of Denver, with a concentration in Early Childhood.  Brittany is interested in working with military-connected children and families. Her other interests include understanding how to engage highly mobile students and families, and increasing awareness of the importance of mental health care, and support in the early childhood education setting. At the Marsico Institute, Brittany is currently assisting with the Heising-Simons Foundation grant on the expansion of an online professional development tool for educators. In collaboration with Marsico Institute staff and assistants, Brittany presented at the Colorado Society for School Psychologists in Vail, Colorado in November 2014.


 Kirsten Hermanutz


Kirsten is a fourth year PhD candidate in the Child, Family, and School Psychology Program, Leadership track. Her interests include family-school partnering, quality in early childhood education, program evaluation, early childhood policy, and working with high-risk children and families. At the Marsico Institute, Kirsten is working on several projects within the Development and Research in Early Mathematics and Education Network (DREME) grant. Prior to working at Marsico, Kirsten spent a year at the Colorado Office of Early Childhood working on quality initiatives and with the Early Childhood Councils. She hopes to apply her experience in working at the systems level with a variety of stakeholders in early childhood to her work at the Marsico Institute. 



Amanda Van Pelt


Amanda is a second year M.A. candidate in Counseling Psychology, with a concentration in School Counseling. She came to the University of Denver as a Teach For America alumnus, and taught high school algebra in the Denver Metro area.  Prior to starting graduate school she worked as an admissions counselor for her alma mater, Nebraska Wesleyan University. Amanda is interested in working with at-risk and minority students at the secondary level, and hopes to use her previous experience to increase the graduation rates of these populations. At the Marsico Institute, Amanda is working on the expansion and revision of the Building Blocks Learning Trajectories website as part of the LT2 Grant funded by the Heising-Simons Foundation.


Why was the Institute created?

The Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy was created to improve early learning environments and outcomes for the very young through research, policy recommendations, and innovative, research-based solutions to effectively meet challenges in the field of early childhood. Although there are many early childhood researchers committed to taking their work beyond university walls, very few exist in the Rocky Mountain area.

How is the Institute affiliated with the University of Denver?

The Institute is part of the Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver. As such, we bring the latest principles, research and practices to its students, thus impacting the quality of the next generation of early childhood professionals. Moreover, through our partnership, the Institute serves as a catalyst for the University's early education agenda.

Is the Institute a teaching facility?

While the Institute does not administer its own degree-granting program , we do work with the Morgridge College of Education faculty to design and revise existing teacher training and early childhood programs. In addition, we offer community learning seminars and lectures, featuring leading national experts on topics of interest to teachers and students of education. Further, the Institute frequently offers work-study opportunities for graduate students seeking to enrich their education with a work experience. We are currently designing training courses and programs for practicing early childhood teachers.

Does the Institute conduct original research?

Yes, the Institute is a hub for early childhood research and policy analysis on a state and national level. We design and evaluate programs, as well as conduct basic science research on how children and teachers learn.

How does the Institute augment/support other organizations working in the field of Early Childhood?

The Institute is non-profit and non-partisan. We collaborate and build partnerships with other community organizations and universities to accomplish our mission. In addition, we provide public access to resources and learning opportunities for all the constituencies within the early childhood community. The Institute also provides consultative services on how to replicate best practices for Colorado's early childhood communities.

How is the Institute funded?

Created in 2008 with a generous gift from the Cydney and Tom Marsico Family Foundation, the Institute receives additional support from the University of Denver as well as other private foundations and philanthropic organizations interested in furthering Colorado's standing in the area early childhood education. In addition, we are also supported through federal research and program grant-making organizations, such as the Administration for Children and Families.

Does the Institute offer resources for parents, teachers and daycare providers?

Yes, the Institute is the primary sponsor and marshal of Early Childhood Colorado, a website specifically designed as a free resource clearinghouse for current information in the field of early childhood, much of which is appropriate for practical use by parents, teachers and daycare providers of young children.

Does the Institute play a role in Colorado's public education system?

We evaluate the impact of public policy decisions that shape important strategic discussion, and work to influence new policies. We use this new information to propose innovative practices and curricula.