The Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska has appointed three new directors: Amy Schmidtke in program development, Dalhia Lloyd in professional learning, and Ally Freeman in communications. In addition, Cama Charlet has been named associate director of professional learning.
“We are very happy to announce these leadership changes,” said Sam Meisels, founding executive director of the Buffett Institute. “Amy Schmidtke, Dalhia Lloyd, and Cama Charlet have demonstrated success in other roles at the Institute, and we are excited to have Ally Freeman join us, with her impressive communications background in government and philanthropy.”
Schmidtke was most recently director of professional learning. In her new role, she conceptualizes and leads systemic approaches to reducing achievement and opportunity gaps in early learning and education settings, birth through Grade 3, blending a working knowledge of applied research, high-quality practices, and effective family engagement strategies to improve school, community, and child outcomes.
Schmidtke began working at the Institute in 2016, first as a bilingual educational facilitator for the Superintendents’ Early Childhood Plan, then as a program specialist with the program development and professional learning teams, and most recently as director of professional learning.
“I am thrilled to take on a leadership role in the Superintendents’ Early Childhood Plan as the director of program development,” Schmidtke said. “I have a great passion for implementing the birth through Grade 3 approach for children and families in our community after spending nearly 25 years as an early childhood educator in the Omaha metro. It is an honor and a privilege to support districts in this important work.”
Lloyd, who was promoted from associate director to director of professional learning, works closely with the program development, research and evaluation, and workforce planning and development teams at the Institute, taking that knowledge and experience and disseminating it to a wide range of audiences.
Lloyd joined the Institute in 2015 as a program specialist, overseeing family and community facilitators as part of the Superintendents’ Early Childhood Plan, and later was named associate director of professional learning.
This work with early childhood educators is vital, Lloyd said. “An African proverb states knowledge is like a garden; if you don’t cultivate it, you cannot harvest it,” she said. “It’s critically important that we, as early childhood professionals, live in a place of constant learning.”
As communications director, Freeman helps lead the Institute’s public outreach, engagement, and education efforts. In addition, she oversees the Institute’s communications initiatives and is responsible for outreach strategies with the four university campuses and across Nebraska and the nation.
Freeman has worked at the intersection of communications, public policy, government, and philanthropy for the last 15 years. She came to the Institute from the Omaha Community Foundation (OCF), where she led strategic communications and marketing since 2016. At OCF, she also directed the Omaha Gives annual community-wide giving day and launched TheLandscapeOmaha.org, a unique community resource offering publicly available data in eight focus areas. Freeman began her communications career in Washington, D.C., working for Sen. Chuck Hagel, as well as for two U.S. representatives and for the National League of Cities. An Omaha native, she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a master's degree in public administration from the University of Pennsylvania.
“The Institute is doing such impactful work in the early childhood field, and it is an honor to join the team here,” Freeman said. “As the mother of two young children, this work is personal to me, too. I look forward to thinking strategically with my colleagues to ensure we are reaching our audiences in new and creative ways as we work to make Nebraska the best place in the nation to be a baby.”
Charlet most recently served as manager of early childhood workforce initiatives. As associate director of professional learning, she oversees implementation of multi-modal professional learning initiatives that aim to promote quality, continuity, and equity in early care and education, birth through Grade 3.
Charlet began working at the Institute in 2015 as an educational facilitator for the Superintendents' Early Childhood Plan and later joined the Workforce Planning and Development staff as a program specialist and later as manager of early childhood workforce initiatives.
“Designing meaningful learning opportunities with and for early childhood professionals is the best part of my job,” Charlet said. “I am excited to find new ways of helping those who care for and educate young children and their families as I transition into my new role as associate director of professional learning at the Institute.”