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Babinski Named Director of Sanford’s Center for Child and Family Policy

June 6, 2019

Leslie Babinski, associate research professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy, will be the new director of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy, Sanford School Dean Judith Kelley announced today.

Babinski succeeds interim director Seth Sanders, who will leave Duke at the end of the summer to assume the Ronald Ehrenberg Chair in the Economics Department at Cornell University. Babinski’s appointment is effective July 1.

"Leslie has really impressed me with her vision for CCFP as an intellectual hub for expanded research and collective grant activity," said Kelley. "She is a stellar citizen who brings a true collective mindset that will benefit the Center and all who affiliate with it. I am very excited for her leadership and for where she will take research on children and families at Sanford and Duke.”

Since 1999, upon its establishment at the Sanford School, the center has sought to discover and evaluate strategies for improving the lives of children and families, and to share those findings with policymakers and public agencies.

Babinski has been with the center for more than 10 years and has long served as an associate director. In addition, she served as Director of Undergraduate Studies for the public policy major. She has also led the Child Policy Research certificate program and the Duke School Research Partnership, both housed within the center.

“I am so impressed with the high-quality work of the researchers, staff and faculty in the center,” said Babinski. “I am excited about the opportunity to build on this strong foundation and expand our contributions to make a difference in the lives of children and their families.”

Babinski is a licensed psychologist whose research focuses on school-based interventions for children and adolescents, and teacher professional development. She has designed curricular innovations for English Learners, middle school students at risk, and high school health education students. Among her current projects includes a large efficacy trial of a professional development program for English as a Second Language (ESL) and classroom teachers. She is also working with colleagues from UNC-Chapel Hill on a program to support middle school students’ self-regulation. Babinski’s current research has been awarded nearly $8 million in external funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.

Babinski’s earlier work at Duke included evaluation contracts with America’s Promise Alliance and United Way Worldwide.

A magna cum laude graduate of the University of Scranton, Pennsylvania, Babinski received both her M.A. in educational psychology and human development and Ph.D. in educational and school psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She participated in the North Carolina Educational Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP) with the NC Public School Forum and Institute for Educational Leadership.

Prior to Duke, Babinski held faculty positions at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and Bucknell University as well as research and clinical positions at nonprofit organizations.

As a publicly engaged scholar, Leslie also serves as a member of Durham Public Schools’ Research Review Committee and consultant to education nonprofits including Teachers2Teachers Global, The Hill Center and El Centro Hispano.

Babinski resides in Chapel Hill with her husband, Steve Knotek. They have three children: Anna, a recent graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill; Katie, a rising junior at Duke; and Chris, a junior at Carrboro High School.