Research Staff

The Ounce of Prevention Fund research staff conducts high-quality research and program evaluations that advance the expertise of early childhood professionals. Our goal is to support better learning environments for all young children and their families.


Meet our research leadership team:

Debra Pacchiano, Ph.D.

Vice President, Translational Research

Debra is an applied researcher focused on professional learning and practice development to improve leadership, teaching, and learning in early education. She is the Co-Principal Investigator on the Early Education Essential Organizational Supports Measurement System and was formerly Co-Principal Investigator on an Investing in Innovation (i3) development grant. Debra has held positions as a research analyst and special education administrator in a large, public school system as well as developed and refined training curricula and implementation tools and protocols for educators.

Maia Connors, Ph.D.

Director, Research and Policy Initiatives

Maia conducts research focused on early childhood care and education policy, systems’ support of high-quality early education and professional learning, as well as adults’ support of young children’s development. Her research methods facilitate understanding and improvement of early childhood systems, and allow Maia to translate findings into policy and practice. Currently, she is the Co-Principle Investigator on a study examining the role of access in pre-K application and enrollment in Chicago funded by the Institute for Education Sciences, and is a key collaborator on the Partnership for Pre-K Improvement project.

Amanda Stein, Ph.D.

Director, Research and Evaluation

Amanda conducts research focused on the short- and long-term outcomes of children and families participating in early education settings and advances high-quality practices and organizational conditions through professional development of leaders and practitioners. At the Ounce, she leads the Educare Chicago Implementation and Follow-Up Studies as their local evaluation partner. Amanda also provides strategic guidance for the research and evaluation efforts for the Educare Learning Network. Amanda is the Co-Principal Investigator on a study examining the role of access in pre-K application and enrollment in Chicago. She was formerly a Head Start teacher and coach which ignited her passion to work at the intersection of research, policy and practice.

Mallary I. Swartz, Ph.D.

Director, Family Engagement Research

Mallary is an applied researcher with expertise in research-practice integration in early education, focusing on family engagement and relationship-based professional development. She leads the design and implementation of a variety of family-focused research and development efforts. Mallary was Principal Investigator of two National Science Foundation innovation and development grants focused on professional development for early childhood teachers around family engagement, early math, and social-emotional learning. Past research affiliations include the Fred Rogers Company, Brazelton Touchpoints Center, University of Pittsburgh, Tufts University, and Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute.