Start Early. Start well.

Samuel J. Meisels, Ed.D.

Founding Executive Director


Samuel J. Meisels, one of the nation’s most accomplished and respected early childhood voices, retired in 2023 as the founding executive director of the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska.

Meisels, who held the Richard D. Holland Presidential Chair in Early Childhood Development, received the Plambeck Early Childhood Pioneer Award in 2022 from the University of Nebraska at Kearney honoring his 50-year career and dedication to children and families. In 2019 he received the visionary leadership award from the Simms/Mann Institute—one of the highest career honors given to early childhood experts. Meisels came to Nebraska in 2013 after more than 11 years as president of Erikson Institute, one of the nation’s foremost graduate schools in child development. At Erikson he expanded programs, facilities, and research and strengthened engagement with schools, communities, and families. Prior to Erikson 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 for birth – 8-year-olds that are widely used throughout the U.S. and abroad. 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 is professor emeritus and research scientist emeritus at the University of Michigan and president emeritus at Erikson Institute. 

In addition to serving as founding executive director of the Buffett Institute, Meisels held 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). One of the nation’s leading authorities on the assessment of young children, he has published more than 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 advisor 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, public policy groups, and school districts. He 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 Meisels was awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Roosevelt University in Chicago.

Read more about Meisels's 50-year career.


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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