Start Early. Start well.

August 08, 2019

Buffett Early Childhood Institute Awards Graduate Fellowships for 2019-20

Three Doctoral Students Will Receive Up to $25,000 for Multidisciplinary Research

Omaha, Neb. — The Buffett Early Childhood Institute has awarded one-year grants to three University of Nebraska doctoral students through a pioneering fellowship program.

The Buffett Early Childhood Institute Graduate Scholars program provides financial support and mentoring and is designed to foster the growth of diverse, exceptional graduate students who are at or near dissertation and are conducting research about early development. The program, now in its fourth year, is the first financial support program for doctoral students who have reached Ph.D. candidacy at the University of Nebraska that focuses on young children and their development.

Each student will receive up to $25,000 to support scholarly research that benefits young children.

“We are delighted to support and collaborate with these talented doctoral students and their mentors at the University of Nebraska,” said Samuel J. Meisels, founding executive director of the Buffett Institute. “We are eager to learn more about their research, which will deepen our understanding of young children’s learning and development.”

The director of research and evaluation, Kathleen Gallagher, who oversees the Graduate Scholar fellowships, is impressed by this year’s ambitious projects.

“These graduate scholars will engage in research developing and testing technology to support children’s healthy eating in family child care homes, examine ways parents can help children with autism learn daily living skills, and explore associations between parenting practices and preschoolers’ working memory,” Gallagher said. “These research projects are diverse, and we are excited about their ability to contribute to knowledge about how to enhance the lives of young children and families.” 

The 2019-20 fellowship recipients are:

  • Alethea Chiappone, of Marietta, Georgia, a student in the College of Public Health, Department of Health Promotion, at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Faculty mentor: Dr. Brandon Grimm.
    Chiappone is working to develop a mobile app to measure the adoption and implementation of healthy eating and active living policies and practices in family child care homes. The app will use photos taken by family child care providers to examine these healthy policies and practices. Chiappone and her team also will develop an accompanying tool to analyze the photos that are submitted through the mobile app. The app will equip program implementers with quality data that will help them deliver healthy eating and active living support that’s tailored to family child care providers. Several healthy interventions have demonstrated success in promoting effective practices, but limited research exists on these interventions with family child care providers, who are more likely to care for children from low-income households, rural communities, and/or racial or ethnic minority groups.
  • Elizabeth Preas, of Cooper, Texas, a psychology student at the Munroe-Meyer Institute at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Faculty mentor: Dr. Therese Mathews.
    Preas is performing an efficacy and efficiency evaluation of real-time feedback for training caregivers to teach daily living skills to children who are on the autism spectrum. Caregivers are a vital contributor to positive child outcomes, but they often have home, work, financial and other responsibilities that make it difficult for them to take part in training. Some studies of the real-time feedback training approach have shown promise; thus, this project aims to gather more evidence and evaluate methods that reduce the cost and time of training caregivers.
  • Yinbo Wu, of Hangzhou, China, a psychology student at the University of Nebraska ΜΆ Lincoln. Faculty mentor: Dr. Anne Schutte. 
    Yinbo is examining the relationship between parenting, attention, and working memory in young children. This study explores how parenting quality and attention are associated with verbal and spatial working memory in children 3 years, 6 months to 4 years, 6 months of age. The findings will clarify the roles of parenting and attention in working memory development in early childhood. The findings could help determine whether working memory interventions that incorporate attention training and parenting interventions will result in working memory improvement.

The Buffett Institute Graduate Scholars program is intended to reach across traditional higher education boundaries, supporting high-quality research from diverse fields that impact young children, including health, education, social work, music, art, the neurosciences, and others. Multidisciplinary research and practice—particularly from disciplines not typically associated with the field of early childhood education—and new methodologies are encouraged. Scholars work with their faculty mentors on a dissertation that represents an in-depth exploration of early childhood issues. 

For more information, visit

Scroll to top