Strategic Plan Spotlight: Early Childhood Connections

At the SJSU Lurie College of Education, we prepare transformative educators, counselors, therapists, school and community leaders through an emancipatory approach across our teaching, scholarship, and service and with a focus on being community-engaged, culturally sustaining, interdisciplinary, and holistic.  Learn more about what this looks like in practice from Child & Adolescent Development faculty Maria Fusaro as she discusses our Early Childhood Institute and Early Childhood Connections initiative below.

SJSU Lurie College of Education Early Childhood Institute Emily Slusser Andrea Golloher Maria Fusaro

As a faculty member in ChAD (Child and Adolescent Development), I’m privileged to work with many dedicated students as part of their educational journey.  Students bring rich insights from their experiences in their own families and from work and volunteer experiences in their communities to my classes on infant/toddler development.

While classes are a critical part of the college experience, college is also a prime time to make personal and professional connections, broaden our horizons, dream bigger dreams, and persist through new struggles.  When I began my journey as a first-generation college student, I had optimistic but vague perspectives about what higher education was all about.  While I cannot fully appreciate what it means to be a college student in the era of COVID, I do recognize the value of having intentional opportunities for connection and dialogue, especially to recover some of the informal connection that we’ve lost to this virus.

In 2019, I worked with my colleagues Emily Slusser and Andrea Golloher, from ChAD and Special Education, to launch the Early Childhood Institute (ECI).  At its heart, ECI is a hub for all things early childhood on campus, including research, training, and advocacy.  We create opportunities for dialogue to better meet the needs of young children and their families in ways that connect research and practice.

As part of our work, and with the support of Lurie College Strategic Plan funding, ECI established a program called Early Childhood Connections (ECC). ECC focuses on building community and supporting the professional growth of BA and MA students and recent alumni across disciplines in pursuit of careers involving young children.  During each of our ongoing sessions, presenters from SJSU and ECI’s community partners are invited to lead discussions on a range of topics.  We’ve learned about the landscape for infant/toddler intervention in California, strategies for engaging with diverse families, and ways in which early childhood teachers (generalists) can work hand in hand with early childhood specialists. We are particularly proud that some of our presenters are SJSU alum, returning to share their wisdom with the next generation of early childhood professionals.

ECC only exists because of our participants and their voices are critical for shaping the program.  A huge shoutout goes to Thao Ngyuen (ChAD BA, 2021), who has served as our dedicated student coordinator throughout our first year of program design and implementation.  Our team, which also includes Isabel Vallejo and Donna Bee-Gates, developed the bones of the program, and participants have weighed in on our meeting themes and ways to stay connected outside of our planned meetings.  ECC is one part of each of their unique SJSU experiences, but it is one that we hope will carry on long into the future, as they continue their professional journey and stay connected to ECI along the way.

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