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Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellowship

In 2016, the Novak Djokovic Foundation launched the Djokovic Science
and Innovation Fellowship at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.

The aim of the Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellowship is to develop the next generation of academic change agents who will both contribute to advances in science and leverage those advances to inform, inspire, and mobilize key actors in the field of early childhood towards new solutions that yield breakthrough outcomes for children facing adversity.

The program employs a cohort model designed to advance interdisciplinary thinking and
translational science capacity through high-touch mentoring and tailored content delivery.

A group of 4 advanced level doctoral fellows, each with a faculty sponsor, are selected annually and convened monthly at the Center through the course of one academic year. This deepens the fellow’s capacity to understand the impact and implications of their work on real world challenges faced in relevant communities and among populations who grapple with daily adversity. In the same manner, each fellow also participates in an immersion experience with the Center’s science-based innovation team so as to experience firsthand the complexities and possibilities associated with the systematic practice of using science as a source of inspiration for new ideas and ways of working in the field of early childhood.

In the latter half of the year, each fellow integrates their insights and lessons learned to convene and host an academic roundtable and present her or his

work to a small group of hand-picked faculty from across Harvard University.

The objective of this capstone experience is to engage in a supportive, constructive, and highly rigorous discussion about the scientific substance and potential applicability of the fellow’s research to enhance the development of children, with a particular focus on the needs of those facing significant adversity.

At its core, the Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellowship infuses translational science and knowledge development with peer-to-peer learning and high-touch mentoring in a vibrant and collaborative science driven community to intentionally scaffold the experiences of advanced doctoral students at a formative moment in their career development.

The Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellowship is open to Harvard University
students who are in the advanced stages of their doctoral studies.

Candidates must have excellent academic records along with well-defined
research interests related to early childhood development.

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Our co-founder, Novak Djokovic, and Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University expressed themselves very clearly in their support of this initiative:

“I am delighted we are investing in the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University and incredibly excited to launch the Djokvoic Science and Innovation Fellowship under the guidance of Jack Shonkoff -- a leading authority on early childhood development. We look forward to meeting the inaugural cohort of Djokovic Fellows in 2017 and, through their research, to furthering the body of knowledge in this field. We believe in facilitating the very best in early childhood development and education, always striving to provide a strong foundation for every child. Our project work on the frontlines is informed by the latest academic thinking and now we will also be in a position to contribute to that body of knowledge for the benefit of practitioners and academics alike, in Serbia and globally.”

Novak Djokovic

Co-founder of the Novak Djokovic Foundation
“The Novak Djokovic Foundation understands that healthy development in the early years builds a strong foundation for thriving societies. They also know that the world needs a pipeline of new, innovative leaders with deep knowledge about how adversity disrupts child development and what can be done to prevent that disruption. By launching the Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellowship at the Center on the Developing Child, the Foundation is investing in a new generation of champions for young children who will lead the way in driving science-based strategies to produce breakthrough impacts on the lives of those who are facing the enormous stresses of poverty, violence, and social exclusion.”

Jack P. Shonkoff, MD

Director of Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University

Why the Djokovic Science and Innovation
Fellowship matters to all of us

At the Novak Djokovic Foundation we are fiercely devoted to furthering the field of study surrounding Early Childhood Development and Education because knowledge really is power, and if we can acquire as much scientific knowledge as possible about the ways children grow, about the fundamental importance of their early years, about the best, most compelling strategies to guide and nurture them, then we are given the very real and very essential power to change lives in mighty ways. We want to contribute to the body of research that has proven, undisputedly, to be so critical to improving children’s lives, particularly those lives that come from marginalized backgrounds. It’s an area that is gaining momentum and traction in academic circles but still very much requires pioneers in the field to further explore and illuminate existing research as well as forge new branches of study. It’s exciting and relevant and we’re getting on board. And we’re doing it in a big way.

Schools, teachers, children, parents, families: it’s who and what we’re passionate about here at the Novak Djokovic Foundation, and we endeavour to support these networks, and the people that

navigate their lives within them, in real and tangible ways.

School builds and classroom refurbishments, community outreach initiatives, teacher-training seminars- these programs are powerful and important and all share a common theme that thrums throughout each of them, informing and improving them: the relevance and necessity of the study of Early Childhood Development, and, by extension, the implementation of practices developed from that study.

A school cannot be as instrumental in nurturing young minds and characters, a guardian cannot parent as effectively, and a teacher cannot teach with the same depth of understanding for the pupil unless we fully comprehend the nuances of the architecture of a child’s brain, the incredible neurological and psychological infrastructure of their persons. That awareness is all the more relevant and necessary when working with and engaging children from disadvantaged backgrounds, who for reasons of poverty, violence or socio-economic status often lead vulnerable lives.

Alberto Lidji and Dr Jack P. Shonkoff

About the Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellowship


Listen to how the Djokovic Science and Innovation
Fellowship was developed and what the future holds.

This is why the Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellowship at Harvard
University’s Center on the Developing Child matters to us.

Djokovic Fellows

The Novak Djokovic Foundation is delighted to welcome the inaugural
cohort of Djokovic Fellows and extends heartfelt congratulations to them

The 2017-2018 Djokovic Fellows

Sonia Alves is a doctoral candidate in the Human Development and Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her research examines the longitudinal associations of adverse experiences, specifically of childhood community violence exposure on children’s academic trajectories. Sonia’s research aims to gain a deeper understanding of the underlying mechanisms and protective factors that can drive the strategic targeting of interventions to help youth manage their exposure to trauma, resulting in better outcomes overall. Sonia holds a B.A. in Psychology and Education & Child Study from Smith College. She expects to receive an Ed.M. in Prevention Science and Practice, Adolescent Counseling, from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in May 2017. Her mentor will be Center-affiliated faculty member Stephanie M. Jones, Marie and Max Kargman Professor in Human Development and Urban Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Joshua Jeong is a doctoral candidate in Global Health and Population at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. His research seeks to understand how fathers’ parenting practices and paternal roles within families relate to children’s early development outcomes in low- and middle-income countries. His research aims to inform programs and policies that support both mothers and fathers and strengthen families for promoting early childhood development. Joshua holds a B.S. in Human Development and Psychology from Cornell University, and an M.P.H. in Global Health and Population from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. His mentor will be Aisha Yousafzai, Associate Professor of Global Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Rebecca Lebowitz is a doctoral candidate in the Human Development and Education department at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Rebecca’s research explores instructional coaching in early childhood education, particularly the development of adult capabilities through professional development, and the impact of such programs on caregiver and student outcomes. Her dissertation seeks to identify best practices in instructional coaching, and investigate the extent to which an instructional coach builds relationships with early childhood educators to facilitate adult learning. Rebecca seeks to identify innovative intervention strategies to enhance early childhood caregiving and integrate the findings to design effective professional learning interventions for early educators. She hopes to conduct and apply research with early childhood practitioners in order to promote system-level improvements in early childhood outcomes. Rebecca holds an A.B. in Urban Studies and Hispanic Studies from Brown University, and an Ed.M. in Education, Language and Literacy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her mentor will be Center-affiliated faculty member Dana Charles McCoy, Assistant Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Linda Zhao is a doctoral candidate in sociology at the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Linda’s research explores inequality in birth outcomes, including time-sensitive pathways that precede preterm birth, connecting individual risk factors, social environment, and biological indicators of preterm birth. Her research seeks to determine the extent to which neighborhoods are indicators or causes of low birth weight, and whether different neighborhood contexts might increase or diminish certain types of individual risk. Her research will further investigate whether different social risks translate to different types of pregnancy abnormalities leading up to preterm birth, helping to translate knowledge between sociology and clinical medicine. Her novel approach may help guide policymakers on specific actions or interventions to improve child health. Linda holds a B.A. in Economics from Princeton University, and expects to receive an A.M. in Statistics from Harvard University in 2017, while simultaneously pursuing her Ph.D. Her mentor will be Jason Beckfield, Professor in the Department of Sociology at Harvard University.

To support this initiative philanthropically, please contact Maja Jovanovic Contact Maja

For all media inquiries, please use the following contact details:

+44 (0)20 3047 2394

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Find out more about the Center on the
Developing Child at Harvard University

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