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Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy

Marsico Institute

Who We Are


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


Julie Sarama, Ph.D.

Julie SaramaJulie Sarama is the Co-Executive Director of Marsico Institute, Kennedy Endowed Chair in Innovative Technology, and Professor at the University of Denver. She was previously a Professor of Mathematics Education at the University at Buffalo (SUNY). She conducts research on young children's development of mathematical concepts and competencies, implementation and scale-up of educational reform, professional development models and their influence on student learning, and implementation and effects of her own software environments in mathematics classrooms, published in more than 50 refereed articles, 4 books, 30 chapters, and 60 additional publications. She has been Principal or Co-Principal Investigator on five projects funded by the National Science Foundation, including Building Blocks—Foundations for Mathematical Thinking, Pre-kindergarten to Grade 2: Research-based Materials Development and Planning for Professional Development in Pre-School Mathematics: Meeting the Challenge of Standards 2000. She is co-directing two large-scale studies funded by the U.S. Education Department's Institute of Educational Studies (IES). The first is a Phase II project, Scaling Up TRIAD: Teaching Early Mathematics for Understanding with Trajectories and Technologies was just awarded by the IES. The second is Increasing the Efficacy of an Early Mathematics Curriculum with Scaffolding Designed to Promote Self-Regulation. Sarama was previously the lead co-PI at the Buffalo site on another IES-funded project, A Longitudinal study of the Effects of a Pre-Kindergarten Mathematics Curriculum on Low-Income Children's Mathematical Knowledge (IES). This is one of seven national projects conducted simultaneously at the local and national levels (combined data) as part of the IES's Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research project. Dr. Sarama has taught secondary mathematics and computer science, gifted math at the middle school level, preschool and kindergarten mathematics enrichment classes, and mathematics methods and content courses for elementary to secondary teachers. She designed and programmed over 50 published computer programs, including her version of Logo and Logo-based software activities (Turtle Math, which was awarded Technology & Learning Software of the Year award, 1995, in the category "Math"). See Dr. Sarama's portfolio here. 

Julie's CV

Crystal Day-Hess, Ph.D.

crystal picture

Crystal Day-Hess, Ph.D., Assistant Research Professor and Assistant Director at the Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy, conducts early childhood research and professional development trainings across the country. She has extensive experience developing, coordinating, and conducting research in the early childhood field focusing on young children’s cognitive, social, and emotional school readiness skills (e.g., self-regulation/executive function, play, achievement motivation, caregiver sensitivity). Day-Hess has conducted research in coordination with administrators, teachers, parents, and students in multiple settings, including public and private preschools, Early Head Start and Head Start programs, and social service agencies. As part of this research, she has had in-depth experience administering a variety of early childhood assessments, including the following: K-BIT, DAS-II, PPVT, TERA, TEMA, BASC, CBQ, Self-Evaluative Emotions Coding System, Carol Dweck’s motivation paradigm, and a variety of caregiver sensitivity and attachment measures. Day-Hess also has experience developing, coordinating, and conducting professional development workshops for early childhood educators and administrators in multiple contexts and settings. She worked on several Early Reading First projects and has served as a training manager for the Scaffolding Early Learning and Tools of the Mind early childhood programs. Her work has been published in such journals as Early Education and Development and NHSA Dialog: A Research-to-Practice Journal for the Early Intervention Field, and in conjunction with ASCD. 

Crystal's CV


Pam Hoberman

Pam directs the Institute's resources. She oversees budgeting, payroll, billing, procurement, payments, & human resources. The Institute's main point of contact for hiring and personnel inquiries, Pam recruits, hires, onboards, and helps develop research staff in collaboration with the Institute's executive leadership. She manages the Institute's technologies, space, & supplies. She serves as the main point of contact for administering the Institute's grants and contracts with active involvement throughout the entire award lifecycle. Pam manages select projects, both research and operational, and works closely with research teams to monitor progress on project milestones. She develops and implements initiatives that advance the Institute's strategic plan.

Pam brings to Marsico more than a decade of experience in public service and nonprofits, with over five years of direct experience in this role alone. The former Director of New York City Labor Market Information Service, a nonprofit research consultancy operating out of the City University of New York, Pam ran the organization's day-to-day operations while also providing leadership to secure it a thriving future.

Pam received her Master of Public Administration degree from NYU Wagner and her undergraduate degree in Government and Politics and a Certificate in Women's Studies from the University of Maryland, College Park. Email her at [email protected]

traci kutaka, ph.d.

Traci KutakaTraci Shizu Kutaka, Ph.D., is a Research Associate at the Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy. Her research centers on early childhood care and education, mathematics teacher preparation and professional development, and program evaluation. She has provided quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods support for multiple research projects and has extensive experience supporting recruitment, data collection, and data management for state-wide and cross-national research initiatives. She has also developed expertise in survey/instrument design, revision, and validation. At Marsico, she works on multiple projects, including the Learning and Teaching with Learning Trajectories (LT2) project; the National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning; Evaluating the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics; and the Regional Educational Laboratory Central. She is the author of multiple book chapters and empirical articles in the Journal of Teacher Education, the Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, and Early Child Development and Care.

Kim Freda

Kim Freda

Kim Freda Kim is the Office Coordinator at the Marsico Institute, in this role, she provides administrative support to the directors, staff, and students. Kim is responsible for coordinating the day-to-day operations of the office, which include but are not limited to the following: updating manuals, processing direct pays, managing p-cards, ordering technology, and coordinating team schedules.Prior to working at the Marsico Institute, Kim worked as an Executive Assistant and Project Coordinator for the global human resources team at Liberty Global where she was responsible for corporate team coordination of various global initiatives including executive compensation programs, training and development, and talent management across three countries. Kim graduated with her bachelors in psychology from Moravian College where she focused her studies on organizational psychology and human resource management.


Postdoctoral Fellows

Becky Chance, ph.d.

Becky Chance is a graduate of the the Educational Curriculum and Instruction Program (Ed.D) with a concentration in ELLs and Special Education. She holds a BS in Applied Learning and Development (UT Austin) and an M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction (TX State University). Becky has held a successful career in EC-5 Title 1 public schools (TX) as an ESL classroom teacher, special education teacher, reading specialist, and special education instructional coach. Her research interests involve working with ECE- 8th second language learners, students with learning and behavior/emotional disabilities, and underprivileged populations. Becky is currently working on the Development and Research in Early Mathematics and Education (DREME) Network grant. 

Shannon Stark Guss

Shannon Stark Guss studied Educational Psychology, with a specialization in Research, Evaluation, Measurement, and Statistics at Oklahoma State University. She worked at the Early Childhood Education Institute at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa for over 10 years before joining the University of Denver. Her previous work included data collection, data management, data analysis, and data sharing with teachers and early childhood leaders. She has published in early childhood journals with a focus on children and families experiencing adversity. Her research interests include interventions that support the learning and development of young children. She is also interested in application of modern psychometric theory to develop research measures. She has three daughters at home and is happily married to an elementary educator.



Grants and Contracts Administrator

The Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy is accepting applications for the Grant and Contract Administrator. Under the direct supervision of the Director of Research Operations, this position is the primary departmental contact for the Institute in the area of sponsored research and other sponsored programs, as well as, research conduct and compliance. For details, please visit: