Kandace Thomas, MPP, PhD

Executive Director, First 8 Memphis

Kandace Thomas, MPP, PhD, works to help individuals, programs and systems of care experience transformation by learning, doing and being. Currently, Kandace is the Executive Director of First 8 Memphis, an organization working to build Memphis and Shelby County Tennessee’s (United States) early care and education system. As the inaugural Executive Director, Kandace is building a $17 million start-up the community’s early childhood plan to ensure quality, access and alignment across early childhood programs and systems. Prior to joining First 8 Memphis, Kandace was a senior program officer at the Irving Harris Foundation where she worked with organizations integrating infant and early childhood mental health and early childhood development best practices into systems serving young children and their families. Kandace led the creation of the Diversity-Informed Tenets for Work With Infants, Children and Families, a framework and approach to help organizations and systems integrate a diversity, equity and inclusion principles into their work and currently serves as a member of the Executive Council and is a known Tenets facilitator and speaker. Kandace has research, policy and practice interests in contemplative self-care, intergenerational trauma, building power to influence public policy and diversity-informed practice. Kandace crochets, meditates and just started Brazilian jiu jitsu.