Start Early. Start well.

Samuel J. Meisels, Ed.D.

Founding Executive Director


Dr. Samuel J. Meisels, one of the nation’s most accomplished and respected early childhood voices, came to the University of Nebraska in 2013 as founding executive director of the Buffett Early Childhood Institute. Meisels also holds the Richard D. Holland Presidential Chair in Early Childhood Development. The presidential chair, which represents the highest academic award and recognition the University of Nebraska can bestow on a faculty member, was established with a $2 million gift from the Holland Foundation. Annual income from the endowment will help with the Buffett Institute’s public outreach and education efforts. Meisels also holds appointments on all four University of Nebraska campuses as professor of child, youth, and family studies (UNL), public health (UNMC), education (UNK), and public administration (UNO). 

Before coming to Nebraska, Meisels served for more than 11 years as president of Erikson Institute, the nation's leading graduate school in child development. At Erikson he expanded programs, facilities, and research and strengthened engagement with schools, communities, and families. Previously, he had a distinguished 21-year career as a professor at the University of Michigan School of Education and a research scientist at Michigan’s Center for Human Growth and Development, where he conducted research concerning high-risk and disabled infants and young children and developed assessments that continue to be widely used with young children throughout the U.S.

Earlier he served as professor in the Department of Child Study at Tufts University and director of the Eliot-Pearson Children’s School, as well as senior advisor in early childhood development for the Developmental Evaluation Clinic of Boston Children’s Hospital. Meisels began his career as a preschool and Kindergarten-first grade teacher in Cambridge and Brookline, Mass. He remains Professor and Research Scientist Emeritus at the University of Michigan and President Emeritus at Erikson. 

One of the nation’s leading authorities on the assessment of young children, he has published over 200 research articles, books, monographs, and assessments. Meisels was president of the board of directors of Zero to Three, the National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families, has lectured throughout the U.S. and abroad, and is an adviser and consultant for numerous local, state, and national organizations including the Office of Head Start, the National Academy of Sciences, state departments of education, foundations, policy groups, and school districts. Meisels holds a bachelor’s degree with high honors in philosophy from the University of Rochester and master’s and doctoral degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In 2010 he was awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Roosevelt University in Chicago.

Research Interests

  • Development of alternative assessment strategies for young children
  • Impact of high-stakes testing on children and teachers
  • Developmental screening in early childhood
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