Dr. Gail Joseph is an incredible innovator in the early childhood field, working to infuse new research and findings on high-quality teaching into everyday practice.

Jackie Bezos

A new endowed fund and professorship created by the Bezos Family Foundation will focus on improving outcomes for early learners and bolster the University of Washington College of Education’s ongoing work to advance early childhood research and practice in Washington state and beyond.

Gail Joseph, one of the nation’s leading early learning researchers and founding director of Cultivate Learning at the UW, will be the inaugural holder of the Bezos Family Foundation Distinguished Professorship in Early Learning.

“I am honored and thank the Bezos Family Foundation for this tremendous investment in our children and their families and caregivers,” Joseph said. “We know that high-quality early childhood programs drive positive academic, social and health outcomes—especially for our most vulnerable children. This support from the Bezos Family Foundation will advance our efforts to give all children a strong start.”

The endowment funded by the Bezos Family Foundation will support three interconnected pillars of work being led by Joseph and her team:

  • Cultivating a leading workforce of early learning providers equipped with the evidence-based practices needed to shift the odds for underserved children and families.
  • Investigating—and inspiring—innovations, collaborating across sectors to generate new knowledge about what works in giving our youngest learners a strong start.
  • Creating and leading partnerships that move early learning innovations into daily practice.

In addition to seed funding for research on emerging innovations in early childhood education and care, the gift endowment will support UW doctoral students who are engaged in research-practice community partnerships.

“Dr. Gail Joseph is an incredible innovator in the early childhood field, working to infuse new research and findings on high-quality teaching into everyday practice,” said Jackie Bezos, president of the Bezos Family Foundation. “She shares our deep commitment to helping all children and families, especially those furthest from opportunity, have access to supportive learning environments that ensure a strong start in life. We are honored that she will be the inaugural recipient of this professorship, and that her commitment to bridging research and practice to make a difference in the lives of our youngest learners will continue in perpetuity.”

During the past decade, Joseph and her team have secured more than $67 million in public and private funding to overhaul national Head Start curricula, create Washington’s quality-rating system for child care sites, and design and deliver early education training and professional development programs nationwide.

Through the Washington Early Achievers quality-rating program, Cultivate Learning staff have completed more than 7,500 program assessments impacting more than 50,000 preschoolers across the state. In addition, Cultivate Learning has trained more than 250 early learning coaches and provided professional development workshops for more than 4,000 early learning professionals in Washington.

Former Seattle mayor and city council member Tim Burgess noted the broad impact made by Joseph and her fellow researchers at the UW.

“Professor Joseph and her team have been instrumental in elevating the quality of early childhood education in Washington state, but more needs to be done to ensure all children benefit,” Burgess said. “This support for early learning research and innovation is essential to our efforts to prepare all children for successful lives, reduce inequity and strengthen the long-term future of our state and nation.”

Mia Tuan, dean of UW College of Education, said the new professorship will help secure Washington’s leadership in efforts to provide high quality early learning experiences to all children.

“Our communities, state and nation gain when every child has a fair opportunity to realize their potential,” Tuan said. “This gift creates new opportunities for us to work with families, practitioners and policymakers to make a positive impact on our children’s future.”


Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications
206-543-1035, dwunder@uw.edu