Meet the ICS Policy Research Fellows!

ICS Policy Research Fellows

In 2023, ICS announced our first cohort of Policy Research Fellows. Fellows are distinguished professionals working in the field of early childhood well-being in a range of topic areas. They were selected by ICS for their commitment to the field, the diverse perspectives they bring, and their commitment to bringing research to practice and empowering the field.

A key goal of the Fellowship is to forge connections between researchers and practitioners, in order to strengthen the important work being done in the field of early childhood. Another aim is to share findings and perspectives with the broader field to build system-wide change. Read on to meet our inaugural cohort of Policy Research Fellows!

Dolores Stegelin

Chair of ICS Research Fellows, Professor Emerita of Early Childhood Education in the College of Education at Clemson University

Dolores “Dee” Stegelin, PhD, is a long-time friend and collaborator of ICS. Dr. Stegelin served as chair of the former ICS Research Committee, which helped determine the direction of research undertaken by ICS and helped connect our work with the broader world. Dr. Stegelin is truly a connector – she is a Professor Emerita at Clemson University in early childhood education, she has long served as an advisor of the US Play Coalition which promotes the value of play throughout life, and she has recently co-authored “The Global Healing Curriculum Project: Promoting Intergenerational Healing and Bridging Trauma to Hope & Well-Being.” Her wealth of experience and her human-centered, child-centered perspective make her a wonderful fit to lead the first cohort of ICS Policy Research Fellows.

Bryndle Bottoms 

Research Assistant Professor at the Child Development Research Center, College of Education at the University of South Carolina

Bryndle Bottoms, PhD, is a Research Assistant Professor at the Child Development Research Center, College of Education at the University of South Carolina. Dr. Bottoms is a South Carolina native with a deep commitment to the children of the state. She was previously a first grade teacher before entering a PhD program in Educational Research, Measurement, and Evaluation to influence the field from the system-level, always keeping the “on the ground” perspective of educators and families in her work. While serving as the editor of Head Start Dialog: The Research to Practice Journal for the Early Childhood Field, she penned a letter that well represents the perspective ICS hopes to find in our Fellows: “Experts in the field of early childhood must remember the wonderful adventures that we get to embark on each day in our roles. Whether we are physically in a classroom, supporting students every day, or in a research or professor role, we each have a unique space to take up in early childhood.”

Ariel Ford

Director of the Division of Child Development and Early Education for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services

Ariel Ford has spent much of her career working within government agencies committed to early childhood, from the Delaware Department of Education to Deputy Administrator of the Office of Early Learning in Chattanooga, Tennessee to her current role as the Director of the Division of Child Development and Early Education for the Department of Health and Human Services in North Carolina. In each of these roles, her work has always centered equity for all children and families. Ariel is the definition of a public servant, a good steward of public resources while also pushing to make real change for children.

Heather Googe

Research Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina’s Yvonne & Schuyler Moore Child Development Research Center, Director of the South Carolina Child Care Inclusion Collaborative

Heather Googe, PhD, is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina, Yvonne & Schuyler Moore Child Development Research Center; she is also Director of the South Carolina Child Care Inclusion Collaborative which provides individualized training and technical assistance for child care providers to support the inclusion of children with disabilities and developmental delays in child care programs. In 2018, ICS published first-of-its-kind research conducted by Dr. Googe and Dr. Herman Knopf which examined the issue of suspension and expulsion in child care centers in South Carolina. The issue of so-called “exclusionary discipline” has become more known in the field since, but efforts to correct this often focus on public programs such as state-funded pre-K; their work focused on private child care centers and “soft” push-out methods which may have not been previously identified. This research helped catalyze a sea change in South Carolina to address this issue, which Dr. Googe continues to help shape. Her perspective on how policies shape practices, and how practices shape policies, is a great fit for this fellowship.

Erin Hamel

Associate Dean of Winthrop University’s College of Education, Sport, and Human Sciences, Executive Director of the Macfeat Early Childhood Laboratory School, Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at Winthrop University

Erin Hamel, PhD, wears many hats in her work at Winthrop University, which creates a unique perspective across research, practice, and instruction. She is Associate Dean of the College of Education, Sport, and Human Sciences at Winthrop University as well as Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy. She also serves as Executive Director of the Macfeat Early Childhood Laboratory School at Winthrop. The lab school provides a hands-on opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to work alongside master teachers to put their early childhood coursework into practice; it is also a research site for projects that help inform the field. Additionally, it provides an opportunity for high-quality, affordable care and education for staff of the Winthrop community and other local families, a crucial issue in the United States. Through these touch points with administrators, families, and students, Erin brings her expertise to a variety of areas in early childhood which many of us never see.

Veronica Parker

Alumni Distinguished Professor at the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences in Clemson University’s School of Nursing, Director of the Center for Research on Health Disparities

Veronica Parker, PhD, is Alumni Distinguished Professor at Clemson University, College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences, School of Nursing and Director of the Center for Research on Health Disparities. ICS was first introduced to Dr. Parker by a health care practitioner who felt her expertise on health disparities was essential to better supporting child and family well-being. Under her leadership, the Center has worked on issues which have a distinct impact on young children including social determinants of health, food insecurity, and health care shortages in certain areas of the state. Through her role in the School of Nursing, she is helping to shape the future of the health care workforce, including a more pronounced awareness of the range of factors which impact health outside of a clinical setting.

Keller Ann Ruble

ICS Consultant, former ICS Associate Director of Policy Research

Keller Anne Ruble, MEd, has worn many hats in the early childhood world. She spent several years in the classroom, then served as ICS’s Associate Director of Policy Research where she conducted foundational research on what is now the Palmetto Shared Services Alliance. She has also worked on the philanthropic side of early childhood with Gary Community Ventures in Denver and as a consultant with a tech company working with early childhood centers to ease administrative burdens. Through these experiences, Mrs. Ruble brings a unique perspective to the Fellowship and the many leverage points where policies and practices can improve the system.

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