Early-childhood service award has special meaning for Patricia Snyder
When Patricia Snyder, who heads the University of Florida’s Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, recently received the Mary McEvoy Service to the Field Award from the international Division for Early Childhood, she cherished both the recognition and the associations with McEvoy and previous award recipients.
The McEvoy award annually recognizes a community member, parent or professional who has made significant contributions, on a national or international level, to early intervention and early childhood special education that improve the lives of young children with special needs, their families, or those who work on their behalf. The DEC is a division of the Council for Exceptional Children, the largest international organization of professionals in the field.
McEvoy, the former director of the Center for Early Education and Development at the University of Minnesota, was a nationally respected researcher and advocate in early childhood studies. She was one of seven passengers who died with Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone in a 2002 plane crash on their way to a political debate and funeral service. She was 49.
“Mary McEvoy set the bar high for those of us in early-childhood-studies science, policy and practice. Those who have previously received the award named in her honor have raised the bar even higher,” Snyder said. “Much of what we envision for our center at the University of Florida is influenced by the work of Mary, her colleagues, and previous award recipients, which makes this honor even more meaningful.”
Snyder is the inaugural occupant of the David Lawrence Jr. Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies at UF’s College of Education. Prior to her UF appointment in 2007, she was the founding director of the Early Intervention Institute at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and subsequently was the director of research at Vanderbilt University’s Center for Child Development for two years.
UF Education Dean Glenn Good said Snyder’s selection for the McEvoy Award reflects UF’s national leadership role in early childhood studies. “Dr. Snyder spearheaded the creation of the university’s center for excellence in 2010 by mobilizing the university’s top specialists in early childhood studies for collaborative research and training activities.
“She has worked to create exceptional interdisciplinary programs and projects for her entire career.”
The new center she heads has quickly gathered some early momentum. While UF’s Baby Gator Child Development and Research Center serves as the hub for model demonstration and training activities, Snyder set up the center’s administrative and research offices in newly renovated quarters in the College of Education’s Norman Hall.
Joining Snyder on the center’s interdisciplinary leadership team are Baby Gator director Pam Pallas, education professor James Algina, associate scholar in education Kelly Whalon, and UF pediatrics professors Marylou Behnke and Fonda Davis Eyler. World-class scholar Maureen Conroy also was recruited back to UF for a leadership team post. Conroy promptly landed a $4 million federal grant to examine the efficacy of a social and behavioral intervention in early learning settings. The center also has hired its first research scientist, Tara McLaughlin, a December doctoral graduate of UF’s early childhood-special education program with several national research and editorial honors.
Prominent businesswoman Anita Zucker, a 1972 UF education graduate, kept the momentum building last year when she pledged $1 million to create an endowed professorship in early childhood studies.
In the research arena, Snyder is working on a $6 million federal grant to expand a job-embedded, advanced degree track in early childhood studies and teacher leadership for teachers in Miami-Dade schools. She recently completed a highly competitive, $1.3 million federal grant to study the impact of professional development on preschool teachers’ instructional practices. In early February, she and her colleagues received a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship training grant from the Institute of Education Sciences.
“We are developing new early learning interventions in collaboration with local, state and national partners and supporting the next generation of early-childhood studies leaders and researchers,” Snyder said.
She served as editor of the Journal of Early Intervention from 2002-2007. Barbara Wolfe, a professor emeritus at the University of St. Thomas, says the high standards Snyder set as editor “played an important role in how early childhood intervention research is viewed and used by others.”
Snyder also advises state and federal early-learning commissions and is a local volunteer for United Way and the Children’s Movement of Florida.
“Pat has had a major impact on the field (of early childhood studies), has contributed significantly to the development of future leaders in our field, and has made a difference in the lives of children and families,” Wolfe wrote in nominating Snyder for the McEvoy Award.
Several of her doctoral students lauded Snyder in their nomination letters for her effective mentorship and the collaborative research opportunities she offers. Concerning her leadership style, Snyder says that among her leadership mantras are to “lead quietly, competently, and by example.”
“I consider it the supreme compliment when peers and practitioners say the quality of their work is enhanced through their collaborations with me, my colleagues, and our students,” Snyder said. “At the end of the day, my litmus test for the work we do is how much it improves services and supports for young children and their families.”
SOURCE: Patricia Snyder, the Lawrence Endowed Professor in Early Childhood Studies, UF College of Education, 352-273-4291; firstname.lastname@example.org
WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137; email@example.com