Start Early. Start well.

Endowed Community Chairs

The Buffett Institute is establishing Community Chairs on the four University of Nebraska campuses. Each of these endowed professorships focuses on different aspects of early childhood development and reflects the interdisciplinary commitment of the Buffett Institute. The Community Chair represents a new role for faculty that goes well beyond teaching, research, and service to include campus leadership and responsiveness to the local community through translational and applied research.
Susan Catapano

Susan Catapano
Cille and Ron Williams Community Chair for Early Childhood Education, University of Nebraska at Kearney

Susan Catapano, Ed.D., has been an active member of the early childhood field for more than 30 years as the owner and director of two nationally accredited early learning centers, executive director of an early childhood nonprofit organization, president of the local NAEYC affiliate, and university faculty in early childhood education. She developed a graduate degree in early childhood leadership, advocacy, and policy to help prepare and support the next generation of early childhood leaders and scholars and continues to work as an advisor with national leaders in early childhood education. As a Fulbright Scholar, she has brought curriculum development and program support to the University of Belize in early childhood education. She continues to lead preservice and in-service students to Belize to work with the teachers and Ministry of Education in Belize on early childhood development, literacy, and numeracy issues.

Catapano earned her B.S. at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, her MBA at Maryville University (St. Louis), and her doctorate at Nova Southeastern University (Florida). She has been the principle investigator on over $4 million in federal, state, local, and private grants. Catapano’s research focus is on mentoring culturally responsive new teachers to work with diverse learners and families.  She has been the author or co-author on more than 30 publications. 

David Dzewaltowski

David Dzewaltowski
Community Chair in Activity, Nutrition, and Obesity Prevention, University of Nebraska Medical Center

David Dzewaltowski is a public health social and behavioral scientist who has contributed to the development of health behavior theory and evidence-based community interventions promoting physical activity and healthful eating in child care settings, schools, after-school programs, and diverse community organizations. His work has demonstrated that interventions can build the capacity of adults and children to influence the conditions of environments in which they live, learn, and play to promote healthful behavior. These projects have been funded by more than $13 million from several health foundations, the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and resulted in over 100 scholarly papers and book chapters.

Dzewaltowski also was a founding member of the RE-AIM workgroup, whose goal has been to encourage program planners, evaluators, readers of journal articles, funders, and policymakers to pay more attention to essential program elements that can improve the sustainable adoption and implementation of effective, evidence-based health promotion programs. He has been on the editorial boards of several scientific journals, such as Health Psychology; Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology; and Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews. He also contributed to numerous community advisory and scientific review panels in Kansas and nationally with the NIH, Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Sciences, USDA, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Concurrent with his research career, Dzewaltowski has more than 20 years' experience as a Kansas State University department head and as center director, which provided him with applied experience on how to lead organization change and partner with community agencies. He received his bachelor's degree from Western Washington University, his master's from West Virginia University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa.

Julia Torquati, Community Chair in Infant and Child Mental Health, UNL

Julia Torquati
Community Chair in Infant and Child Mental Health, University of Nebraska ΜΆ Lincoln

Julia Torquati is a professor and interim department chair of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies (CYAF) in the College of Education and Human Sciences. As the inaugural recipient of the Community Chair in Infant and Child Mental Health, she will contribute expertise in the areas of infant and child mental health and socio-emotional development. As chair, she also will help educate families and other care providers to support mental and emotional development in young children.

Torquati is an award-winning faculty member with 25 years of experience in child development, child care, and nature-based environmental education. Her work integrates mental health into the full ecological system of very young children including their families, caregivers, teachers, and communities. Torquati has written a number of publications related to temperament, self-regulation, caregiving, peer relationships, adult-child relationships, and executive functioning. She holds her Ph.D. and M.S. from the University of Arizona and her B.A. from Marquette University.

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