Julie Nicholson, Ph.D.

Dr. Julie Nicholson, Ph.D. is Professor of Practice in the School of Education at Mills College where she has been a faculty member since 2005 and directed several innovative programs including the Leadership Program in Early Childhood, a Joint MBA/MA Educational Leadership Program and the Center for Play Research. Nicholson is also Co-Founder of the Center for Equity in Early Childhood Education and Evaluator for the Oakland Starting Smart and Strong Resilient Oakland Children and Kids (ROCK) project.  


Julie conducts community-engaged scholarship and her teaching, research and publications emphasize issues of social justice and equity in early childhood. She has published widely in a range of peer reviewed journals (American Educational Research Journal, American Journal of Play, Childhood Education, Early Child Development and Care, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Early Years: An International Research Journal, Educational Assessment, Education Policy Analysis Archives, Journal of Computing in Childhood Education, New Educator, International Journal of Play, Teacher Education Quarterly). She has also published many peer reviewed book chapters, book reviews (Journal of Multicultural Education, Teachers College Record) and technical reports (Assessment Technical Review Panel, National Opinion Research Center, National Center for Education Statistics, and resources for public scholarship (digital briefs, articles for Child Care Exchange etc.). She is the lead author/co-author of several books (see below) and was the project director and lead writer for three groundbreaking publications completed in collaboration with the California Department of Education’s Early Learning and Care Division (listed below); first of their kind resources for the nation. In her previous role as Deputy Director for WestEd’s Center for Child and Family Studies, she directed a Video Development Project for the California Department of Education: Guidelines for Early Learning in Child Care Home Settings, a set of six videos that is being circulated and used for professional development across the state. She was also lead author and director of a project to create California’s Early Childhood Educator Competencies in Adult Learning and Coaching and accompanying videos; competencies that are informing the design and implementation of professional learning for early educators in pre-service and in-service across California. 


Dr. Nicholson has made hundreds of presentations of her research at international, national, state and local conferences. Her research is accepted for presentation at the American Educational Research Association annually. Julie regularly gives keynotes, presentations and conducts trainings across the US and internationally. She also has many years of experience participating in local and state level policy committees addressing child care and early childhood systems change and leading as well as serving on non-profit Boards. 


Julie received an MA and Ph.D. in early childhood from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, an MA in developmental psychology from San Francisco State University and a BA and multiple subjects teaching credential from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She taught young children for ten years in preschool and kindergarten classrooms. She is the proud parent of three daughters and lives in San Francisco, California.


Selected Publications


Nicholson, J., Kurtz, J., Leland, J., Wesley, L. & Nadiv, S. (in press). Trauma-Responsive Practices for Early Childhood Leaders: Creating and Sustaining Healing Engaged Organizations. Routledge Press.

Nicholson, J. and Kurtz, J. with E. Peterson, T. Henneman, L. Rivas, & B. Lin (in press). Trauma-Responsive Resilience-Building Family Engagement Practices  for Early Childhood Educators (2021). Routledge Press.

Nicholson, J., Driscoll, P., Kurtz, J., Wesley, L., & Benitez, D. (2019). Culturally Responsive Self-Care Practices for Early Childhood Educators. New York, NY: Routledge Press.

Steele, K., & Nicholson, J. (2019). Radically Listening to Transgender and Gender Expansive Young Children: Creating Epistemic Justice through Critical Reflection and Resistant Imaginations. Lexington Press. 

Pastel, E., Steele, K., Nicholson, J., Maurer, C., Hennock, J., Julian, J., Unger, T., & Flynn, N. (2019) Supporting Gender Diversity in Early Childhood Classrooms: A Practical Guide. Kingsley Press. 

Nicholson, J., Perez, L., & Kurtz, J. (2019). Trauma-Informed Practices for Early Childhood Educators: Relationship-Based Approaches that Support Healing and Build Resilience in Young Children. Routledge Press.

Nicholson, J., & Wisneski, D. (Eds.). (2018). Reconsidering the Role of Play in Early Childhood: Towards Social Justice and Equity. Taylor & Francis Press.

Nicholson, J. (2017). Emphasizing Social Justice and Equity in Leadership for Early Childhood: Taking a Postmodern Turn to Make Complexity Visible. Lexington Press.

Peer Reviewed Articles

Nicholson, J., Kuhl, K., Lin, B, Maniates, H., & Bonetti, S. (2018).  A critical review of the international literature on leadership in early childhood: Examining epistemological foundations and considerations of social justice. Early Child Development and Care. https://doi.org/10.1080/03004430.2018.1455036 

Nicholson, J., & Maniates, H. (2015) Recognizing postmodern intersectional identities in leadership for early childhood. Early Years: An International Research Journal, 36(1), 66-80. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09575146.2015.1080667  

Nicholson, J., Kurnik, J., Javgjovikj, M., & Ufoegbune, V. (2015) Deconstructing adults’ and children’s discourse on children’s play: Inserting children’s voices to destabilize deficit narratives. Early Child Development and Care, 185(10), 1569-1586. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03004430.2015.1011149  

Nicholson, J. & Kroll, L. (2014). Developing leadership through oral inquiry: Strengthening equity through making particulars visible in dilemmas of practice. 

Early Child Development and Care, 185(1), 17-43.  


Shimpi, P. , & Nicholson, J. (2013). Using cross-cultural, intergenerational play narratives to explore issues of social justice and equity in discourse on children’s play. Early Child Development and Care, 184(5), 719-732. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03004430.2013.813847 

Public Scholarship

Nicholson, J. (2019). Play, It’s the Way Young Children Learn. Digital Brief. Bay Area Early Childhood Funders. http://www.earlychildhoodfunders.org/

Nicholson, J. (2020). The Power of Play for Addressing Trauma in the Early Years (English and Spanish versions). Bay Area Early Childhood Funders. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.31240.24325 http://www.earlychildhoodfunders.org/