The TRC draws on a network of partners across the country who work in partnership with American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) communities to conduct early childhood research and deliver early care and education services.
Graphic showing the networks of partners

Leadership Team

Representatives from five partner organizations and our federal funding agency lead the TRC.

Drs. Michelle Sarche (Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe, TRC Principal Investigator) and Nancy Whitesell serve on the Leadership Team from the Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health (CAIANH) at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Colorado School of Public Health. CAIANH supports the health and well-being of Native people and communities through research, training, continuing education, technical assistance, and information dissemination carried out in partnerships with over 150 tribes, 38 community-based health organizations, and 12 Alaska Native regional corporations across 30 states.

Drs. Catherine Ayoub and Josh Sparrow serve on the Leadership Team from Brazelton Touchpoints Center based in the Division of Developmental Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital. Together with families, providers, and communities, the Center develops and applies knowledge of early childhood development to practice and policy through professional and organizational development, evaluation, advocacy, and awareness, serving as a resource for proven practices.

Dr. Allison Barlow serves on the Leadership Team from the Center for American Indian Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The Center works in partnership with tribal communities to design and implement public health programs and support public health training to raise the health status, self-sufficiency, and health leadership of Indigenous peoples to the highest possible level. The Center is now active with more than 140 tribal communities in over 21 states.

Dr. Deana Around Him (Cherokee Nation) serves on the Leadership Team from Child Trends, a national non-profit focused exclusively on improving the lives of children and youth. Child Trends conducts rigorous, nonpartisan research and evaluation grounded in deep knowledge of child development. Child Trends’ work occurs in partnership with practitioners and policymakers to develop actionable recommendations and clear communications for improving interventions and policies that serve children and their families.

Dr. Jessica Barnes-Najor serves on the Leadership Team from the University Outreach and Engagement Office (UOE) at Michigan State University. The UOE emphasizes university-community partnerships that are collaborative, participatory, empowering, systemic, transformative, and anchored in scholarship. The UOE creates an ecosystem of engagement by supporting faculty, staff, and students; fostering public access to university expertise and resources; and advocating for exemplary engaged scholarship, nationally and internationally.

Drs. Nicole Denmark, Meryl Barofsky, Aleta Meyer, Laura Hoard, and Amelia Popham, serve on the Leadership Team from the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). OPRE supports data-driven decision making in ACF programs by increasing the quality, usefulness, sharing, and analysis of data on ACF programs and the populations they serve through research and evaluation that upholds principles of rigor, relevance, transparency, independence, and ethics. The TRC is funded by a cooperative agreement from ACF/OPRE; Drs. Nicole Denmark and Laura Hoard serve as the ACF/OPRE TRC Program Officers.

Steering Committee

Group photo of the Steering Committee MembersThe TRC is guided by a Steering Committee of over 40 tribal early childhood leaders including tribal Head Start, Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV), and Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) program directors and staff; members of the ACF training and technical assistance network and national centers; tribal evaluation partners; organizational leaders; tribal college faculty; and academic researchers. The TRC Steering Committee is convened biannually to advise the TRC’s work, strengthen relationships, and foster opportunities for multi-directional learning. TRC Steering Committee members are also involved closely in the TRC Communities of Learning.


The TRC’s current activities build on work started in 2005 by the American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start Research Center and developed further through two subsequent awards to the TRC (2011-2015: 90PH0017 and 2016-2020: 90PH0027). Initial funding for the American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start Research Center was informed by two reports in 2003 and 2004 by the Administration for Children and Families that highlighted the dearth of research on young Native children’s development and research priorities based on AIAN community input. The partnerships and Communities of Learning that were formed and cultivated in years past are foundational to our work today. We are grateful to the many individuals and organizations that have contributed to our collective efforts over the years.
Graphic of a timeline with TRC milestones

Centers for American Indian & Alaska Native Health

Colorado School of Public Health

CU Anschutz

Nighthorse Campbell Native Health Building

13055 East 17th Avenue

Mail Stop F800

Aurora, CO 80045

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