Dr. Cynthia García Coll: Frameworks, Perspectives, & Relevance for Today


Dr. Cynthia García Coll is a champion in the field of developmental psychology. She was pivotal in leading the field of developmental psychology to confront racism, discrimination, and prejudice in research practice. Dr. García Coll’s research focuses on the interplay of sociocultural and biological influences on child development, with particular emphasis on minoritized populations. In the 1990s, Dr. García Coll introduced the Integrative Model for the Study of Developmental Competencies in Minority Children — a theoretical framework that is used widely today. She has published over 160 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and books. In addition, Dr. García Coll served as editor of two major journals, Child Development and Developmental Psychology. Her work has had far-reaching impacts on research, policy, and practice.

On Wednesday, May 25, 2022, the Foundation for Child Development hosted the third installment in its Scholars of Color Series highlighting the contributions of scholars of color in the early care and education field and the vital relevance of their work in improving the lives of young children today.

The interview with Dr. García Coll featured in this webinar can be viewed here.

Dr. García Coll is currently an Adjunct Professor in the Pediatrics Department at the University of Puerto Rico Medical School and the Charles Pitts Robinson and John Palmer Barstow Professor Emerita, at Brown University, where she was a Professor of Education, Psychology and Pediatrics for 30 years.

Dr. García Coll received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico, her master’s degree from the University of Florida and her Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Dr. García Coll Resources

  • Download the Foundation’s Dr. Cynthia García Coll: Frameworks, Perspectives, & Relevance for Today webinar PowerPoint here
  • A list of Selected Works by Dr. García Coll can be found here


José M. Causadias, Ph.D., is a Panamanian immigrant working as an Associate Professor at the School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University. He moved from Panamá to the U.S. in 2009 to pursue a Ph.D. in Child Psychology from the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. He is passionate about theory and research on culture, mental health, and Latinx children, youth, and families.

Kia Ferrer is currently Adjunct Faculty and a Doctoral Fellow in Child Development at Erikson Institute and Loyola University-Chicago. She has worked in a variety of pediatric settings across Chicagoland for the past 12 years and has held positions as Child Life Specialist and Child Life Coordinator at Shriners Hospitals for Children and NorthShore University Health System. In the summer of 2018, post-hurricane Maria, Kia supervised a team of child life students and volunteers at San Jorge Women and Children’s Hospital while completing a research internship with Dr. Cynthia Garcia Coll in Puerto Rico. Her research with Dr. Garcia Coll examines the conceptualization of the term diversity within the context of preservice training materials written by and about Edward Zigler, one of the most prolific architects of early childhood programming. In 2020 she and Dr. Garcia Coll published Zigler’s Conceptualization of Diversity: Implications for the Early Childhood Workforce in the journal Development and Psychopathology. Kia currently resides in Chicago with her two sons, and works for the nation’s first membership-based, direct pediatric primary clinic: Donohoe Pediatrics.

Linda C. Halgunseth, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Connecticut, and jointly appointed with El Instituto. She is also the Director of Academic Affairs at UConn Hartford. Her research focuses on parenting and children’s well-being in Latinx and African American families. Dr. Halgunseth is Past Chair of the Latinx Caucus of the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD). She received two Early Career Awards: one in teaching from AAUP, and one in research from the SRCD Latinx Caucus. Her integrated review on Latino parental control was published in the special issue of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture in Child Development. She is an Associate Editor for the Journal of Research on Adolescence. She works closely with the Latinx community by serving on the Boards of the Connecticut Community Foundation and Madre Latina Inc. in Waterbury, CT. She also served as a faculty advisor for the Latin American Student Organization (LASO) at the University of Connecticut. She received a BA in psychology and Spanish at the University of Texas at Austin, and a MS and Ph.D. in human development and family studies from the University of Missouri.

Deborah J. Johnson, Ph.D., is Michigan State University Foundation Professor and Professor of Human Development and Family Studies. She is the current Director of the Diversity Research Network, within MSU’s Office for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion. Her research explores racially and culturally related development, parental racial socialization and coping, and cultural adjustment from early childhood through emerging adulthood, among youth from the U.S., Western Australian, and refugee South Sudanese. Recent books address the global rights of children and private/charter school experiences of African American children and immigrant identity explorations. Author of numerous articles, chapters, and edited volumes, including Re/Formation and Identity: The intersectionality of development, culture, and Immigration (2021); Children and Prejudice (2019); Vulnerable Children: Global Challenges in Education, Health, Well-Being, and Child Rights (2013).

Amy Marks, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology at Suffolk University in Boston, and is currently serving as a Fellow at the Harvard Divinity School in higher education anti-racism, anti-oppression work. She is Cherokee (Aniwodi), and approaches the work of anti-oppression research and education with a deep commitment to indigenous practices and healing.

Natalia Palacios, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Education in the Educational Psychology - Applied Developmental Sciences program in the School of Education and Human Development (EHD). Natalia has two main lines of research that focus on the familial and instructional process that support children’s academic and socio-emotional development during the transition to school and the early elementary period.  Her research on families identifies the practices in which Latinx and Spanish-speaking parents and siblings engage that informally and formally support and prepare children for the transition to school. Her research in school contexts identifies malleable classroom factors that support the academic achievement, and cognitive and social development of children, with a particular focus on the benefits of bilingual and dual language programming. Natalia currently leads the Language Programs for Latinx Students Project, which uses state-wide data to examine the academic outcomes of all Latinx students attending a variety of language programs in the state of Utah. Natalia is also co-PI of the EL-VEST postdoctoral training grant funded by the Institute for Education Sciences.

Deborah Rivas-Drake, Ph.D., is the Stephanie J. Rowley Collegiate Professor of Education and Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan. The overarching goal of her work is to illuminate promising practices that disrupt racism and xenophobia and help set diverse young people on trajectories of positive contribution to their schools and communities. Together with the Contexts of Academic + Socioemotional Adjustment (CASA) Lab (casalab​.org), she examines how school, peer, family, and community settings can support adolescents in navigating issues related to race and ethnicity, and how these experiences inform young people’s academic, socioemotional, and civic development. Her research has been funded by the NSF, Spencer Foundation, and W.T. Grant Foundation. Her co-authored book, Below the Surface: Talking with Teens about Race, Ethnicity, and Identity, was recognized with the Social Policy Book Award from the Society for Research on Adolescence and the Eleanor Maccoby Award in Developmental Psychology from the American Psychological Association. In addition to her academic publications, she has lent her expertise more broadly by collaborating with school leaders and district policymakers to develop translational activities for educators; in writings and webinars for parents and educators; and by consulting on race and ethnicity issues in youth for non-profit organizations, SEL program developers, and industry.

Vanessa Rodriguez, Ed.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Center for Early Childhood Health and Development within the Department of Population Health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. A veteran public school teacher, Rodriguez conducts qualitative and mixed-methods research that amplifies educators’ perspectives using humanizing, trauma-informed, and social justice-oriented methods. Her work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, The Foundation for Child Development, the Early Childhood Research Network, and the Spencer Foundation, among others. She is a sought-after speaker for international audiences and has published numerous articles in academic and practitioner venues. Her current funded projects employ critical feminist frameworks to better understand and advocate for educator mental health and wellness, particularly among Black and Latina women in early childhood education. These approaches guided two of her recent manuscripts that explore women pre-K teachers’ mental health and well-being during COVID-19 lockdown in NYC (Rodriguez et al., 2022) and their social-emotional development through the Five Awarenesses of Teaching Framework (Rodriguez et al., 2020). Other notable contributions to the field include pioneering the Self-in-relation-to-teaching interview method (Rodriguez, 2016) and writing The Teaching Brain (The New Press, 2014).

Gabriela Livas Stein, is a licensed psychologist and Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Broadly, her research uses developmental psychopathology and cultural-ecological frameworks to investigate the impact of culturally relevant factors on the development of psychopathology for minoritized youth and their families, with a focus on Latinx families. She has served as the Vice President of Programming for the Society of Research on Adolescence, as a co-chair of the Ethnic Racial Issues Committee of the Society of Research on Child Development, and a past chair of the Latinx Caucus of the Society of Research on Child Development. She has also served as an Associate Editor for Journal of Research on Adolescence, and has been a consulting editor for Child Development and Developmental Psychology. 


Martha Zaslow, Ph.D., is an independent child development research consultant and a Visiting Distinguished Fellow at Child Trends. Her work focuses on supporting both early childhood development and early career development. With colleagues at the Urban Institute and Child Trends, she assists in the implementation of the Foundation for Child Development’s Promising Scholars and Young Scholars Programs. As a Visiting Distinguished Fellow at Child Trends, her research focuses on professional development of the early childhood workforce, and on approaches to strengthening quality in early care and education. She is a Scientific Advisor for the US DHHS Administration for Children and Families’ National Research Conference on Early Childhood and a member of the Content Advisory Team for the National Survey of Early Care and Education. She served previously as Interim Executive Director of the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) and for 10 years as SRCD’s Director for Policy. Prior to her work at SRCD, she served as Senior Research Associate and Vice President for Research at Child Trends and, with colleagues, founded its Early Childhood and Poverty divisions. She was a member of the NAS Consensus Committee on Developmental Outcomes and Assessments of Young Children. She also served on the US DHHS Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Head Start Research and Evaluation.