Keynote speakers

Paul Leseman, Sarah Klaus & Michael Feigelson to deliver keynote address at ISSA Conference 2019

We are thrilled to announce Prof. dr. Paul Leseman, Head of Department Social and Behavioral Science (Utrecht University), the Director of the Early Childhood Program at the Open Society Foundations Sarah Klaus, and the Bernard van Leer Foundation’s Executive Director Michael Feigelson as Keynote Speakers at ISSA Conference 2019.

Prof. dr. Paul Leseman - Utrecht University

Paul Leseman obtained his MSc (major in psychology, minor in linguistics) at the University of Amsterdam and a PhD in the social sciences at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. He was a postdoctoral research fellow of the Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences, a senior researcher and associate professor of educational sciences at the University of Amsterdam, and visiting scholar of early childhood education at the Free University of Berlin.

He is a professor of education - in particular learning disabilities and school problems of low income and minority children - at Utrecht University since 2003. He was scientific director of the Langeveld Institute, chair of the Department of Child, Family and Education Studies, and chair of the national PhD research school for developmental psychology and education ISED.

Currently, he is principal investigator of the Dutch national cohort study pre-COOL on the effects of early childhood care and education on children’s development and school achievement, scientific coordinator of the European Union's FP7 project CARE (Curriculum and Quality Assessment and Impact Analysis of European Early Childhood Education and Care) and the EU Horizon 2020 project ISOTIS (Inclusive Education and Social Support to Tackle Inequalities in Society), and principal investigator of the EU Horizon 2020 project L2TOR on social robots as dual language tutors for young children.

He is also principal investigator of the Dutch national Child Daycare Quality Monitor (LKK). Research publications concern emergent literacy and numeracy, bilingual development, development of executive functions and self-regulation, efficacy of preschool education programs, and adolescent literacy.

Sarah Klaus - Director of the Early Childhood Program in the Open Society Foundations

Sarah Klaus is director of the Early Childhood Program (ECP) at the Open Society Foundations. ECP advances the rights of children and families that are left behind by empowering parents, professionals and civil society organizations and by building socially-inclusive, transparent systems.  Since 2006, she has expanded the program’s original focus in Central Eastern Europe and Eurasia to include Africa, Asia, Latin American and the Middle East.

Over the past two decades, she helped launch Step by Step, the Foundation’s flagship early childhood program, and the International Step by Step Association (ISSA), a network established to support early childhood professionals in Europe and Eurasia.  She served as ISSA’s executive director from its inception in 1999 to 2006.  ISSA has grown into a leading professional network and advocate for young children and families.  Building on the success of ISSA, ECP has gone on to foster regional early childhood networks in Asia, Africa and the Middle East and North Africa.   

Prior to joining the Open Society Foundations, Sarah Klaus worked in the former Soviet Union as a guide to an official U.S. exhibition and assisted researchers at the Kennan Institute. She has a Bachelor's degree in Russian Studies from Brown University, a Master’s degree in Developmental Psychology from Columbia University Teachers College and a Doctorate in Education from UCL’s Institute of Education.  Her areas of expertise include reaching children and families at risk, especially Roma, and evolution of the early childhood field.   


Michael Feigelson - Executive Director Bernard van Leer Foundation

Michael Feigelson has spent the last 15 years focused on working with governments, civil society and business to improve opportunities for children and youth.

As a Thomas J. Watson Fellow, he documented the life histories and worked closely with educators on three continents serving homeless children. He then served as a McKinsey & Company consultant where he worked primarily in the media and pharmaceutical industries. While his passion to serve children and families ultimately led him to leave the firm, it was during this experience that he developed a strong belief in the value of engaging the private sector as a champion for change – something he continues to promote today.

Following his time at McKinsey, he became a street outreach worker at Melel Xojobal, a local not-for-profit (and former grantee of the Bernard van Leer Foundation) in southern Mexico where he worked directly with children and families displaced by violent conflict helping them gain access to education and healthcare. After serving in this role, he joined the organization’s leadership team helping to transform its ability to advocate for children with government and local business.

He joined the Foundation as a Programme Officer in 2007. He then held the positions of Programme Manager, Programme Director and Interim Executive Director. Over this period, Michael led the development of the Foundation’s advocacy and programming strategy across eight countries and internationally; has been featured in media such as the Financial Times, CNN, BBC and The Stanford Social Innovation Review; and has served as a strategic advisor to partners such as UNICEF, the World Health Organization and The Open Society Foundations, among others.

Michael Feigelson has degrees from Wesleyan and Princeton Universities where he spent much of his time focused on understanding the impact of social and economic policies on children and families; and – most importantly – he is the father of a beautiful girl who reminds him every day of the importance, the challenges, and the joy that comes with a child’s early years. 

News on the Keynote Speakers will follow soon!