Researchers Working to Close the Opportunity Gap

Portrait of Megan Gunnar.

Megan Gunnar

Professor — College of Education and Human Development

I am driven to promote healthy development for all children

Megan Gunnar is professor and director of the Institute of Child Development within the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota. As leader of the institute’s Human Developmental Psychobiology Lab, Gunnar is dedicated to understanding the complex set of experiences necessary to produce a thriving generation of children. In particular, Gunnar is interested in how adversity early in life shapes the body’s stress response systems, and in how children and adolescents regulate stress and emotions. She is the principal investigator for the International Adoption Project, and co-principal investigator of the Early Experience, Stress Neurobiology, and Prevention Science Network. In 2006, Gunnar was named Regents Professor, the highest distinction a University of Minnesota professor can receive.

Faculty profile

Portrait of Phil Zelazo.

Philip Zelazo

Professor — College of Education and Human Development

I am driven to track and improve a child’s readiness for kindergarten

Philip Zelazo holds the Nancy M. and John E. Lindahl Professorship for Excellence in Teaching and Learning in the Institute for Child Development at the University of Minnesota. Professor Zelazo’s research focuses on the development and neural bases of executive function (the conscious regulation of thought, action, and emotion) in children, adolescents, and adults. He is also the co-creator of the widely used Minnesota Executive Function Scale (MEFS)—a well-validated, reliable, standard measure for executive function used to assess readiness for kindergarten, growth during school years, and the effects of curricula and interventions.

Faculty profile

Portrait of Jed Ellison.

Jed Elison

Assistant Professor — College of Education and Human Development

I am driven to detect autism earlier and give kids a better chance to succeed

Jed Elison is an assistant professor in the Institute of Child Development within the College of Education and Human Development. Elison’s research examines developmental processes that contribute to individual differences in social communication during the infant and toddler periods. His particular focus is on identifying young children at risk for developing autism spectrum disorders, so that in such cases intervention could provide them with the skills they need to better navigate complex social interactions. Through behavioral assessments, eye tracking, interviews, and magnetic resonance imaging, Elison is enabling a better understanding of brain and behavioral development.

Faculty profile

Portrait of Michael Rodriguez.

Michael Rodriguez

Professor — College of Education and Human Development

I am driven to help education fit each child’s needs

Michael Rodriguez is the Campbell Leadership Chair in Education and Human Development and associate professor in the University of Minnesota Department of Educational Psychology. As Campbell Leadership Chair, Rodriguez supports initiatives to reduce the opportunity gap and expand collaboration to discover how the U of M can help improve educational access and success. His research is on understanding the psychometric properties of tests, and developing ways to maximize test accessibility to diverse test takers, including those with cognitive impairments or limited English proficiency. Rodriguez also leads a youth development research group, examining aspects of youth development, social-emotional skills, and educational outcomes.

Faculty profile

Heather Peters portrait

Heather Peters

Associate Professor — University of Minnesota Morris

I am driven to improve educational opportunities for Native Americans

Heather J. Peters is an associate professor of psychology in the Division of Social Sciences at the University of Minnesota Morris. Peters has a profound commitment to social justice and to serving students from marginalized identities and communities; this commitment is the driving force behind her teaching, advising, research, and service. She is also a potent force in student academic life through her many collaborative projects. Peters, a member of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers, is a recipient of the Horace T. Morse - University of Minnesota Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education and the University of Minnesota Morris Alumni Association Teaching Award.