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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 matters, 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

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.


Laura Meza ProfileLaura Meza is a Research Assistant for the Marsico Institute. She has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology with a minor in Neuroscience from Texas A&M University. She has experience working with diverse populations in educational and therapeutical settings. Most recently, Laura served as an Early Intervention Specialist in Austin where she provided specialized skills training for infants and toddlers with developmental delays and medical diagnoses.Through an Early Childhood Intervention program, Laura was a service coordinator and focused on connecting underserved populations to medical, educational, and social services.She is passionate about helping others and plans to obtain a professional career in the Neuropsychology field. Currently, she is a team member of the Evaluating the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics project. On her free time, Laura enjoys exercising, crafting, and trying new coffee shops.

Kim Munnerley

Kim Freda

Kim is the Business 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: managing payroll, 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 international 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

Christina Mulcahy, Ph.D.

Christina MulcahyChristina Mulcahy studied Educational Psychology – Applied Developmental Science, as an IES predoctoral fellow at the University of Virginia. Prior to joining the Marsico Institute, she worked in early childhood research at the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) and WestEd and taught seventh grade language and literature in the Dominican Republic. She has extensive experiences conducting educational research and professional development including: administering assessments to children; conducting classroom observations; managing and training data collectors and coordinating large scale data collection; participant recruitment; developing and delivering curricula and interventions; data analysis; and developing and delivering online and in-person professional development workshops and courses for early childhood teachers. Her research interests focus on early childhood education practice and policy, self-regulation and executive function in the educational context, early math instruction and intervention, teacher-child interactions and relationships, and professional development for early childhood teachers. She has published work in education and early childhood focused journals including, AERA Open, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, and Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness.

Becky Chance, Ed.d.

BeckyBecky Chance, Ed.D., is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy. Her research focuses on technical assistance in the field with a concentration on differentiated instruction for language learners and students challenged with disabilities. Her role in the institute centers around supporting ECE- 5th grade teachers with research founded instructional coaching, professional development, and curriculum/instructional development for ECE-5th grade classrooms.
Becky holds a BS in Applied Learning and Development (UT Austin), complimented by both an M.Ed (TX State University) and Ed.D in Curriculum and Instruction (University of Denver). Becky has held a successful career in ECE-5 Title 1 public schools (TX) as an ESL classroom teacher, special education teacher, reading specialist, and special education instructional coach. Her larger research interests involve working with teachers to develop culturally responsive classrooms that foster support for language learners, students with learning and behavior/emotional disabilities, and underprivileged populations. Becky is currently working on the STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education (STEMIIEE) project and the Evaluating the Efficacy of a Preschool Interdisciplinary Curriculum (EPIC) grant.

Shannon Stark Guss, PH.D.

shannonShannon 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.




Postdoctoral Research Fellowship

The Marsico Postdoctoral Research Fellowship is an opportunity to participate in multiple research projects involving applied scientific research in education, including research-and-development projects (i.e. mathematics assessment and discourse, the investigation of the validity of research-based learning trajectories and related professional development and coaching support, and the investigation of an interdisciplinary preschool curriculum) and analyses of data from large-scale investigations of the effectiveness of mathematics interventions using randomized trials and other methodologies. This is a two-year appointment. Learn more and apply here: