MLFTC assistant professor selected for 2022 Young Scholars Program cohort


Meghan Ensell

The Foundation for Child Development announced this year’s Young Scholars Program cohort, which includes Evandra Catherine, assistant professor and director of Leadership Engagement and Senior Scientist of Mental Health Equity for the Children’s Equity Project at Arizona State University. Catherine is one of four junior researchers selected for this prestigious program.   

The Young Scholars Program supports policy- and practice-relevant research that focuses on the early learning and development needs of the nation’s children who are growing up in conditions of economic insecurity and social exclusion. The program only accepts applicants whose research focuses on how knowledge, skills and disposition of the early care and education (ECE) workforce can support children’s growth and development from birth to age 8. 

The $225,000 award will allow Catherine to conduct her research over a period of two-to-three years. Her project is titled, “A mixed-methods approach to describe the implementation of cultural approaches during classroom-focused early childhood mental health consultation.” The announcement of Catherine’s acceptance comes on the heels of Mental Health Awareness Month.

Evandra Catherine

“I am honored to be selected for the Young Scholars Program 2022 cohort for so many reasons,” says Catherine. “I am privileged to carry on the legacy of my ancestors, particularly Amos Wilson, through research that seeks to deepen the field's collective understanding of the emotional histories and experiences of Black, Indigenous, Latino, immigrant and multilingual children, as well as children with disabilities who have been racialized.”

The purpose of her research, Catherine says, is to describe the approaches ECE teachers use in an effort to improve their interactions with young, culturally diverse children. Decades of research has shown that Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (ECMHC) has a positive effect on young children and the adults who care for them. Catherine’s research will be guided by ECMHC’s theory of change, which is a starting point for unpacking the processes by which an intervention leads to the desired outcome.

During her study, Catherine will research the breadth of cultural approaches used during classroom-focused ECMHC and how ECE teachers respond to and implement cultural approaches to better their interactions with diverse children. She will then examine whether cultural approaches are associated with any changes in interactions and if characteristics of the teacher or consultant predict changes in the interactions. After Catherine integrates her findings, she aims to provide a robust and comprehensive understanding of influences of cultural approaches and teachers’ sociocultural interactions.

Southwest Human Development, a local organization that heads Arizona’s Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation program, is also supporting Catherine’s research. 

“I am looking forward to growing my research skills, in addition to the mentorship and networking that this opportunity will provide,” Catherine says.


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