The University of Nebraska has commenced a search for the inaugural executive director of the Buffett Early Childhood Institute. The new institute, made possible by a generous gift from Omaha philanthropist Susie Buffett that will be more than matched by other public and private funds, will be a university-wide, multidisciplinary research, education, outreach, and policy center that will seek to transform the approach to early childhood development and education in Nebraska and across the nation.

University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken said the primary focus of the new institute will be on the learning and healthy development of children from birth to age eight, with special attention to those children who are vulnerable because of poverty, abuse, or developmental, learning or behavioral challenges. The institute will strive to create a new model for how a 21st-century public university can help to drive the creation of better systems for understanding child learning and development and delivering education and other services to young children and their families.

Milliken said the university intends to recruit an executive director who is a recognized leader in early childhood education, child development, or other early childhood-related field with some applied background. He or she will provide the visionary leadership and administrative experience to build the institute as a nationally leading center that will be a game-changer in early childhood development and education.

Milliken has named a 12-member search committee comprised of faculty members and administrators from the four campuses as well as external representatives from Head Start and K-12 education and the business community to identify, recruit and recommend candidates for this important role. The committee will be chaired by Marjorie Kostelnik, Dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Other members include:
  • Charlie Bicak, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, University of Nebraska at Kearney
  • Eric Buchanan, Assistant Vice President/Director of Corporate & Foundation Relations, University of Nebraska Foundation (Immediate Past Chair of the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation)
  • Nancy Edick, Dean, College of Education, University of Nebraska at Omaha
  • Ayman El-Mohandes, Dean, College of Public Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • Eleanor Kirkland, Director, Head Start-State Collaboration Office, State of Nebraska
  • Helen Raikes, Professor, Child, Youth & Family Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Brian Maher, Superintendent, Kearney Public Schools
  • Jessie Rasmussen, President, Buffett Early Childhood Fund
  • Steve Seline, President, Walnut Private Equity Partners, LLC
  • Susan Sheridan, Professor, Educational Psychology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • John Sparks, Chairperson, Pediatrics Administration, University of Nebraska Medical Center
The committee will be assisted by Kim Morrisson of Diversified Search, a professional consulting firm engaged by the university. Nominations or expressions of interest in the position may be sent to Dr. Morrisson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Milliken said he hopes to name the new director by the end of the calendar year.
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