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COE alumna Stacy Ellis named new UF Baby Gator director

COE alum Stacy Ellis (right) succeeds retired director Pam Pallas as Baby Gator director.

COE alumna Stacy Ellis (right) succeeds newly retired Pam Pallas as UF Baby Gator director.

After conducting a national search, the University of Florida has named a College of Education alumna as the new director of Baby Gator Child Development and Research Centers at UF.

Deciding the best candidate was already on staff, the university appointed Stacy Ellis, formerly the associate director for organizational operations at Baby Gator. She is a 2008 education doctoral graduate in curriculum and instruction.

Her promotion became effective June 17. Ellis succeeded Pamela Pallas, who retired after 13 years as Baby Gator director. Pallas also was a clinical associate professor in early childhood studies at the College of Education.

With Pallas at the helm, Baby Gator went through a growth spurt that saw it blossom into a nationally recognized center. Baby Gator is known both for its innovative daycare services and its collaboration with UF faculty researchers in cutting-edge early childhood studies.

In 2010, Baby Gator became the hub of the research activities for the new UF Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, which last year was renamed after COE alumna and major donor Anita Zucker. Ellis replaces Pallas on the center’s leadership team.

Before receiving her doctorate in education, Ellis earned her master’s in family, youth and community services in 2002 and her bachelor’s in human resource development in 1999, all at UF.

Ellis originally joined Baby Gator in 2004 as a teacher in the two-year-olds class and then rejoined in 2008 after completing her graduate degree. She quickly moved up the ranks from teacher, assistant director of educational programming, associate director for organizational operations, and now director.

Ellis says her major focuses as she steps into the new role will be to increase salaries for Baby Gator teachers, introduce new research based practices, and build on Baby Gator’s long-standing relationship with the College of Education and the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood studies.

“We have a model demonstration program that is nationally recognized,” she said. “My ultimate goal is to expand on that and push Baby Gator towards innovation in the early childhood field.”

Pallas said that Ellis’ knowledge, experience and ideals, from both her College of Education theoretical background and her years of practical experience at Baby Gator, made her the top candidate for the position.

“I know she will help grow, achieve and maintain Baby Gator’s well-deserved recognition under her tenure as director,” Pallas said..

When Pallas arrived in 2003, Baby Gator was enrolling around 80 students and had only one location. Now, Ellis takes over a center that enrolls 333 children across their three centers and maintains a long waiting list.

Ellis will oversee Baby Gator’s continued growth as it strives for preeminence in the field and is working cooperatively with the Anita Zucker Center and community agencies to partner in unique ways.

Writer: Kelsie Ozanne, news and communications office, UF College of Education;
Media Relations: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; 352-273-4173;