Opportunities for Graduate Students in 2020-21

The Office of Child Development is excited to announce that we are seeking Pitt School of Education graduate students to apply for assistantships for the 2020-21 school year. Assistantships include 20 hours of work per week for Fall and Spring terms, and will cover tuition, benefits, and a stipend. Each assistantship will be partnered with a division of the Office of Child Development and will be part of the office’s 2nd Student Fellows Cohort.

Below is a description of each position, and they will each likely evolve to match division needs and applicant skills. We hope you will consider reaching out to any of these division directors for more information about the positions.

Jump to opportunities: Community Programs | Early Head Start | Evaluation and Research | SJ&E with Picture Books | P.R.I.D.E. | HealthyCHILD


Community Programs

The Community Programs division offers opportunities to work on multiple projects with a common theme of family leadership. Programs include professional development to 28 family centers across the county around topics including family engagement, child development, cultural humility, and more; an exploration of how providers can better support immigrant families; developing a new model for mindfulness for caregivers of young children; and a study on how systems can increase capacity for shared power with families.

What you’ll be doing
In this context, an ideal student candidate would work with the director to develop a project that focuses on families’ strengths, bright spots elements of successful family leadership in a variety of contexts, and supports recommendations for building sustainable capacity within organizations to engage families in leadership. An ideal student will have a passion for family engagement, critical thinking skills, capacity for both independent and collaborative work, and the ability to travel to a variety of community-based locations. 

Great fit for those interested in:
Family Leadership and Engagement
Cultural Humility
Building Sustainable Programs

Click here to apply

Early Head Start

Our Early Head Start Home Visiting program serves over 300 local families with children 3 years old and younger. A key component of this program is our policy council, a group of families that govern the program by making decisions about programming, monitoring program budgets, and developing their own leadership styles. Although all Early Head Starts have policy councils, there are very few guidelines or models for best practices in running them and supporting families to lead.

What You Will Do
We are seeking a graduate student to help us document our approach, compare it with existing research literature and best practices, identify our strengths and areas for growth, and tell our story in a national outlet (e.g. a conference presentation, practitioner article). The ideal candidate for this position will have a strengths-based view of families, and will have basic qualitative and quantitative skills.

Great fit for this interested in:
Parent and Family Engagement
Home visiting
Researching literature and best practices

To learn more or apply, contact:
Chris Dunkerley, EHS director: cdunkerl@pitt.edu

Evaluation and Research Team

The Evaluation and Research Team (ERT) works with partners to bridge knowledge and practice, bring the best available research evidence to real-world applications, and help our partners to understand and convey the value of the work they do on behalf of others. Typically, ERT operates roughly 20 projects each year, focused primarily on education-related intervention in urban communities.

What You Will Do
For this upcoming year, we are seeking a graduate student to help us coordinate and implement the third and final year of a randomized control trial that is examining the efficacy of a kindergarten math app. Additional project opportunities (e.g.. supporting a local scan examining family and educator perspectives on positive racial and disability identity development in early childhood special education; multiple projects examining the use of children’s books to support race-based conversation in early childhood contexts) may also be explored depending on availability and interests. The ideal candidate for this position will have strong communication skills, the ability to coordinate with school and university partners, and comfort delivering and coordinating the delivery of academic assessments with young children. Quantitative and qualitative research skills, and interest in applied research opportunities are preferred.

Great fit for those interested in:
Early Childhood Special Education
Applied Research
Children’s Literature

Click Here to Apply

Learning About Social Justice & Equity with Picture Books

Dr. Shannon Wanless, Office of Child Development director, is interested in learning more about how picture books can be used to help adults develop self-awareness and ultimately increase their social justice and equity (SJ&E) skills.

What you will do:
We recently piloted a task in which adults read SJ&E-focused picture books to each other and recorded themselves talking about how they would use these books with young children. After reviewing these conversations, we developed a coding scheme to identify indicators of racial humility, racial knowledge, racial communication, racial beliefs, and racial teaching. In the upcoming year, we are seeking a student to help us to further develop this task and coding scheme in two ways. (1) Expanding the task to focus on multiple aspects of SJ&E, and (2) Designing and implementing a larger study to examine its practical utility with a broader sample of adults. The ideal student for this position will have a strong interest in SJ&E, will review existing literature related to the task, will contribute to writing grant and conference proposals, and will independently be able to administer the task in university classrooms, with teachers, and with higher education faculty.

Great fit for those interested in:
Social Justice and Equity
Children's Literature
Learning About Race

To learn more or apply, contact:
Shannon Wanless, principal investigator: swanless@pitt.edu

P.R.I.D.E. (Positive Racial Identity Development in Early Education)

The Positive Racial Identity Development in Early Education Team (P.R.I.D.E.) works with adults who teach, work with, or care for Black children age 3-8. Our goal is to build their knowledge and skills, and to provide resources that enable to them to support young Black children’s positive racial identity development. P.R.I.D.E. strategies include an arts component, direct work with parents, as well as ongoing learning opportunities for professionals who touch the lives of young Black children.

What You Will Do
For the upcoming year, we are seeking a graduate student to help us conduct research related to: best practices in racial awareness training, effective adult learning, and professional learning communities. Additionally, the student would support P.R.I.D.E. staff in developing and delivering training, participate in train-the-trainer sessions that build their training capacity, and documentation of all professional development content and partnerships. The ideal candidate will have a passionate interest in race and young children, as well as excellent research, public speaking, and planning/coordinating skills.

Great fit for those interested in:
Learning about race
Working with young children
Research and training skills

To learn more or apply, contact:
Aisha White, P.R.I.D.E. director: aiw9@pitt.edu


HealthyCHILD (HC) is a community university partnership that aims to help teachers develop skills to address child behaviors in the classroom that often result from trauma, mental health challenges, and racial discrimination. In the past, suspensions and expulsions were more common in early childhood classrooms, and this partnership aims to decrease that practice and help teachers to keep children in the classroom and engaged in learning. The HC team use a collaborative consultation and problem-solving model, along with an improvement science framework, to identify problems of practice and implement small tests of change based on the research literature and the unique contexts we are working in. Our partners are involved in the design, implementation and study of the partnership’s work and activities.

What You Will Do

As an Intern Developmental Healthcare Consultant (DHC), you will assist with the provision of trauma-informed, consultation, education, tiered direct support & technical assistance for adults supporting young children with and at-risk of developmental, behavioral and mental health disorders. You will accomplish this by developing trusting, supportive relationships with educators and caregivers to support their capacity to build and maintain positive adult-child relationships, create supportive environments, promote children’s social and emotional competence and address challenging behavior. The ideal candidate has a strong interest in early childhood education and mental health, is enrolled in a graduate program in psychology, social work, or special education, and has prior experience with young children (birth to 8 years old).

Great for those interested in:
Behavioral and Mental Health in Schools
Trauma-Informed Practice
Interdisciplinary Collaboration

To learn more or apply, contact:

Tracy Larson, HealthyCHILD director: Tracy.Larson@pitt.edu