Julie Nicholson serves as Deputy Program Director with WestEd's Center for Child & Family Studies (CCFS), where she leads a wide range of projects and product development efforts, manages and supports staff, and further builds CCFS as a leader in the early childhood development field. A sample of the projects she is currently directing for CCFS include California’s new Early Childhood Educator Competencies in Adult Learning and Coaching, a book in collaboration with the California Department of Education, Early Education and Support Division titled, Responsive Early Education for Children and Families Experiencing Homelessness, the development of an Early Childhood Trauma Training Curriculum and Train the Trainer Model, and a video Development Project to explain and illustrate the concepts in CDE’s publication, Guidelines for Early Learning in Child Care Home Settings, for Family Child Care (FCC) providers and trainers working with FCCs.

Nicholson is also Associate Professor of Practice in the School of Education at Mills College. While at Mills, Nicholson directed the Leadership Program in Early Childhood; co-directed the Joint MBA/MA Educational Leadership Program; chaired the early childhood department; and established and directs the Center for Play Research, which examines issues of equity and social justice related to play including children's rights to play, and cross-cultural and global perspectives on play. Also, while at Mills, Nicholson created and co-led a professional learning community to support leadership development among early childhood professionals that is featured in the California Department of Education Early Childhood Educator Competencies videos on professionalism.


She has published over 30 research articles in peer reviewed journals on a range of topics including leadership development, play across the lifespan, teachers’ use of data to inform their instruction, the use of technology with children and in higher education, the impact of trauma on young children’s development, using race equity as a lens for critiquing current conceptions of kindergarten readiness, consequential validity in ECE assessments, pre-natal-8 systems reform bridging early childhood with public schooling, and responsive early childhood practices to support gender expansive children. Her first book examining social justice and equity in relation to leadership in early childhood was published in spring 2017.


Dr. Nicholson has many years of experience participating in local and state level policy committees addressing child care and early childhood systems change. She serves on several Boards including the Board of Directors for the Association for Childhood Education International.


She is the proud parent of three daughters and lives in San Francisco, California.

Julie Nicholson

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