Buffett Early Childhood Institute founding director begins tenure at Nebraska

July 22, 2013

The founding executive director of the University of Nebraska’s Buffett Early Childhood Institute, Dr. Samuel J. Meisels, has assumed his new role at Nebraska and is engaged in a strategic planning process that will help position the institute to achieve its goal of improving the learning and developmental outcomes of young, at-risk children and their families.

Meisels, one of the nation’s leading authorities in early childhood, officially began at the Buffett Institute June 1 after a highly successful tenure as president of Chicago-based Erikson Institute, the country’s premier graduate school in child development. In his new role, he has appointed a national board of advisors that includes leading figures in early childhood representing both higher education and the private sector and with deep experience in relevant policy, practice and research. He has also gathered a strategic planning commission that includes stakeholders from within and outside of the university.

Meisels said these advisors will help him shape the mission of the Buffett Early Childhood Institute and advance its priorities as he leads the institute through its early stages. Meisels said he hopes to finalize a strategic plan for the institute by the fall.

“My goal is for Nebraska to become the best place in the nation to be a baby, a toddler, a preschooler, an early elementary student, and to be a parent of a young child,” he said. “We are well-positioned to succeed. In my view, the Buffett Early Childhood Institute is being created at exactly the right time and in exactly the right way. I could not be more excited to lead this exciting initiative that has the potential to change both Nebraska and the nation.”

Meisels’s arrival at Nebraska comes at a time when the importance of early childhood is increasingly recognized at both the state and national level. Early childhood is among the topics being studied by the Nebraska Legislature during the interim session, and it is a high priority of the Obama administration.

NU President James B. Milliken announced Meisels’s appointment last October. The Buffett Institute was created in 2011 with a generous gift from Omaha philanthropist Susan A. Buffett. The institute is a university-wide, multidisciplinary research, education and policy center focused on promoting the development and success of children from birth to age 8, especially those who are vulnerable because of poverty, abuse, or developmental, learning or behavioral challenges.

Milliken said, “Sam Meisels shares our vision for becoming a national leader in the critical area of early childhood education and development. Our faculty are already well-regarded for their groundbreaking work in this field and under Dr. Meisels’s leadership, the Buffett Early Childhood Institute will take their efforts to the next level. Children and families in Nebraska and beyond will benefit tremendously from the work of the Buffett Institute.”

Members of the Buffett Institute advisory board assembled by Meisels are:

  • Hiram Fitzgerald, associate provost for university outreach and engagement, Michigan State University
  • Vivian Gadsden, William T. Carter Professor of Child Development and Education, University of Pennsylvania
  • Eugene Garcia, professor of education emeritus, Arizona State University
  • Beth Graue, Sorenson Professor of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Sharon Lynn Kagan, Virginia and Leonard Marx Professor of Early Childhood and Family Policy, Columbia University
  • Tammy Mann, president and CEO, The Campagna Center
  • Jessie Rasmussen, president, Buffett Early Childhood Fund
  • Arnold Sameroff, professor and distinguished research scientist emeritus, University of Michigan
  • Ross Thompson, distinguished professor of psychology, University of California, Davis
  • Kathy Thornburg, emerita professor of education, University of Missouri-Columbia

David Willis, division director of home visiting and early childhood systems in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will serve as the federal liaison to the board of advisors.

Media Contact:
Melissa Lee
Director of Communications,
University of Nebraska