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Conroy named as first Zucker Professor in Early Childhood Studies

Maureen Conroy, Ph.D., an early childhood expert and professor in the University of Florida College of Education, has been named the Anita Zucker Professor in Early Childhood Studies.

Maureen Conroy1

Maureen Conroy

Conroy, who co-directs the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies at UF, is working with other center researchers to transform science, policy and practices in early childhood learning, intervention and healthy development. Their efforts are gaining national and worldwide attention.

“Ninety percent of a child’s brain development happens before he or she turns 5,” Conroy said. “Our research mission is to provide science-based approaches for supporting young children’s development and learning during this critical time.”

A primary focus of the center is supporting young children who are most vulnerable, their families, and their early childhood providers to create nurturing and supportive early learning environments to help them succeed.

Through the Anita Zucker Center, Conroy and her collaborators partner with colleagues from a number of colleges at UF as well as other community, state, national and international stakeholders.

Zucker, a 1972 UF education graduate and a UF Board of Trustees member, has long been interested in early childhood studies. In 2011, the Charleston, South Carolina native contributed $1 million to the College of Education to establish the endowed professorship that Conroy now occupies. Last year, Zucker gave another $5 million to expand the center’s efforts and UF’s Preeminence initiative in early childhood studies.

“Anita Zucker understands the importance of investing in young children’s growth, development and education,” Conroy said. “Her generous gifts are a game-changer that ensures our work will reach children and families in our community, state and across the nation and world.”

A graduate of Keene State College in New Hampshire and a two-time graduate of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Conroy’s 38-year career has revolved around conducting research and training future researchers as well as those working directly with young children and their families.

Patricia Snyder, director of the Anita Zucker Center who also serves as the David Lawrence Jr. Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies, said the appointment of Maureen Conroy as the inaugural Anita Zucker Professor in Early Childhood Studies will advance the College of Education’s national and international visibility and impact.

“Having the Zucker Professor and Lawrence Chair working side-by-side demonstrates UF’s commitment to achieving preeminence in early childhood studies,” Snyder said.

Zucker, who taught elementary school for 10 years and has a master’s degree in educational administration and supervision from the University of North Florida, agreed.

“Early childhood education really is the key to unlocking doors for later learning and success in life,” she said. “Transforming our children’s lives through education is important in so many ways.”

Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.
Writer: Linda Homewood, Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, homewood@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4284.