Dr. Laurie Miller Brotman Awarded Aspen Institute Fellowship

Award will support expansion of ParentCorps, an education program for low-income families

Tuesday, April 28 2015

Laurie Miller Brotman, PhD

Laurie Miller Brotman, PhD

In March, the Aspen Institute named psychologist Laurie Miller Brotman, PhD, the Bezos Family Foundation Professor of Early Childhood Development in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center, as one of its 2015 Ascend Fellows. Ascend supports individuals from a range of sectors who are leading efforts to help low-income families in the U.S. build economic security, educational success, and health and well-being.

The award could not have come at a better time for Dr. Brotman. With her colleagues in the Center for Early Childhood Health and Development, which she directs, she is preparing to scale up ParentCorps, a successful program she developed 17 years ago to promote health and prevent problem behavior among children from low-income, urban communities.

"As an Ascend Fellow, Dr. Brotman will have a unique opportunity to share and advance her already groundbreaking work on ParentCorps,” said Jackie and Mike Bezos of the Bezos Family Foundation, which nominated Dr. Brotman and is a co-sponsor of Ascend. “The network of other Ascend fellows will provide opportunities for collaboration and a national spotlight. Dr. Brotman could not be more deserving of this honor,” they added.

ParentCorps brings together parents, teachers, mental health providers, and school leaders to support children and families as they make the critical transition to school. “The goal is to enhance home and classroom environments when children are in pre-kindergarten, to build the foundational social, emotional, and behavioral skills necessary for school success,” explained Dr. Brotman.

Randomized trials have found that ParentCorps leads to improvements in physical and mental health and academic achievement for low-income children over and above the benefits from pre-kindergarten alone, and a cost-benefit analysis found that ParentCorps saves money over the course of a child’s life. 

“Positive education outcomes early on lead to positive health outcomes and productivity,” said Dr. Brotman.

The Two-Generation Approach

Ascend fellowships were awarded to 21 leaders in sectors including state human services, post-secondary and early education systems, workforce issues, and philanthropy. Ascend selects leaders who will take a “two-generation approach” with their projects—creating opportunities for both vulnerable parents and children.

During the 18-month fellowship, Dr. Brotman will participate in four Aspen Institute meetings and have the opportunity to tap powerful networks of social justice and other leaders to help in carrying out the fellows’ action plans. They will also benefit from the resources of the Washington DC-based Aspen Institute, whose mission is “fostering leadership based on enduring values and providing a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues.”

The Next Quantum Leap

In her application, Dr. Brotman had to propose “the next quantum leap”—a bold, visionary idea to reduce inequality. She proposed to scale ParentCorps in New York City in partnership with local and state education and health policy makers, providing it as an enhancement to pre-kindergarten programs. As part of this expansion, there will be ongoing evaluation and focus on data-based decision making that will lead to quality improvements in the program. 

According to Dr. Brotman, “This is the perfect time for me to join other leaders who are replicating and scaling two-generation approaches and to be part of a network with which I can share knowledge, coordinate efforts, and translate ideas into action.”