Dr. Ponguta’s work centers on the advancement of Early Childhood Development (ECD) in low and middle-income countries with a focus on policy research, program evaluation, and advocacy. She obtained a Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Pathology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MPH in Health Policy and Administration at the Yale University School of Public Health. She then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Yale Child Study Center where she then joined the Center’s faculty in 2014. Dr. Ponguta has led and participated in ECD policy-making and policy analysis projects in over 10 countries in Africa (Kenya, Angola, Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda), Southeast Asia (Laos, Timor Leste), Eastern Europe (Kosovo), Latin America (Peru, Colombia, Nicaragua, Brazil) and the Middle East (Palestine). These projects include the development of comprehensive and integrated ECD policies and national implementation plans, national feasibility studies for ECD program implementation at scale, and an international comparative study on the mechanisms of governance and finance of ECD in three world regions. She has been invited by the governments and international partners (UNICEF, World Bank, UNESCO) of Morocco, Macedonia, Montenegro, Colombia, and Dubai as a Keynote Speaker to support the advancement of ECD sector initiatives. She was also a research partner in the development of a measure to characterize the quality of ECD service provision in Colombia.
Dr. Ponguta has focused on the evaluation of programs that engage caregivers and the community to promote school readiness and holistic development. The projects include the development and evaluation of a novel school readiness program to build community youth leaders’ vocational skills as early childhood educators in rural Pakistan; a randomized controlled trial evaluating a school readiness intervention targeting mothers and children living in Palestinian refugee camps and marginalized communities in Beirut; and the development of an evaluation framework for two interventions in Colombia that address psychosocial and social-emotional development and parental engagement in publicly-funded ECD centers.
Currently, she is the Principal Investigator of four main projects: a Sector-Wide Analysis of Early Childhood Development and Education in Emergencies (funded by Dubai Cares); a beta pilot for the cross-country validation of the Remote Assessment for Learning (ReAL) in partnership with Save the Children; the design of a field-face toolkit to design parent education programs at scale in partnership with UNICEF; and the implementation of the LEAPS/JUNTOS program in Colombia.
Dr. Ponguta was awarded the Jacobs Foundation Research Fellowship, the only internationally open, competitive fellowship program for early and mid-career researchers focusing on child and youth development. Dr. Ponguta is a member of the Early Childhood Peacebuilding Consortium, an international network that aims to galvanize the peacebuilding and violence prevention agenda through ECD. She is also a member of the American Psychological Association’s Climate Psychology Scholars and Practitioners.