Samantha A. Melvin, PhD

I am an Assistant Research Professor at Erikson Institute whose work blends child development, early childhood education, and social policy. My research aims to understand how policies and systems can more equitably meet the needs of children, families, and educators across early childhood settings. Specifically, I explore how educators define and deliver high-quality care and education experiences, as well as how policies can meaningfully incorporate home-based child care and into system design to enhance access for children and families. I strongly believe that early childhood programs and systems can be essential drivers of justice for our youngest learners and those who care for them, and that all caregivers must be valued partners in the realization of this vision. Visit my research page for more information about current and recently completed projects and collaborations!


I first fell in love with early childhood development and education during my time as an undergraduate at Wesleyan University, where I worked as as a research assistant in Dr. Anna Shusterman's Cognitive Development Lab, an assistant pre-k teacher in the founding class of Kindergarten Kickstart, and a teaching assistant in Middletown Public Schools and various after school programs. After graduating in 2013 with a BA in Psychology concentrating in Cognitive Science, I spent three years managing Dr. Kimberly Noble's Neuroscience, Early Experience, and Development (NEED) Lab at Columbia University. At the NEED Lab, I managed multiple research projects related to identifying and ameliorating socioeconomic disparities in language and neurocognitive development in infancy through middle childhood, including Getting Ready for School, a bilingual home-classroom curriculum designed for Head Start settings, and the pilot study of Baby's First Years, the country's first randomized control trial on the effects of poverty reduction on family life and child development.

I completed my MA and later my PhD in Early Childhood Education Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University while working with Dr. Sharon Lynn Kagan at the National Center for Children and Families (NCCF). At NCCF I had the opportunity to work on a variety of projects related to building equitable, high-quality early childhood systems in New York City and around the world. After a teaching practicum in the toddler room at Rita Gold Early Childhood Center, I continued working as a substitute teacher there for the rest of my time in NYC. I have also leveraged my experiences as a researcher, manager, assistant early childhood educator, and instructional coach to provide research, evaluation, and coaching consultation to a variety of nonprofit clients.