National Louis University Receives $5 Million Grant for Early Childhood Education Training Institute

The institute will focus on training future teachers and conducting research in the early childhood education field.
portrait of Margaret Attridge
Margaret Attridge
Read Full Bio


Margaret Attridge is a news reporter for BestColleges focusing on higher education news stories in California. She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in May 2022 with a BA in journalism and government and politics....
Updated on April 12, 2024
Edited by
portrait of Darlene Earnest
Darlene Earnest
Read Full Bio

Editor & Writer

Darlene Earnest is a copy editor for BestColleges. She has had an extensive editing career at several news organizations, including The Virginian-Pilot and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She also has completed programs for editors offered by the D...
Learn more about our editorial process
Image courtesy of National Louis University

  • National Louis University announced it is creating an institute of early childhood education.
  • The institute was made possible in part by a $5 million grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
  • The McCormick Institute for Early Childhood will incorporate the university's bachelor's and graduate programs and professional development opportunities.

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation donated $5 million to National Louis University (NLU) to create a new institute furthering the scholarship and study of early childhood education.

According to Dr. Lisa Downey, current associate dean of undergraduate educator preparation at NLU, early plans for the institute include:

  • Designing new programming to recruit a wide diversity of students
  • Upskilling and offering credentials for those already in the field
  • Conducting research to share with the early childhood education field

The initial five years of life is a vital period for the development of fundamental abilities such as language, motor, cognitive, and social-emotional skills, Downey said in a press release sent to BestColleges.

It is crucial that we heavily invest in the training of those who dedicate their lives to ensuring our future generations are set up for success.

Downey, who earned her master's in education and doctorate from NLU, will assume the role of executive director of the McCormick Institute for Early Childhood once it launches. According to the university, NLU graduates many early childhood teachers, so a dedicated institute was necessary.

It made sense for us to develop the institute to start to harness all of that energy around advancing the field of early childhood and preparing teachers, Downey told BestColleges.

The institute will house the university's bachelor's and graduate programs along with the Center for Early Childhood Leadership, which focuses on professional development for early childhood teachers and leaders. This year, the center introduced a concentration for those interested in pursuing a career training the next generation of early childhood educators.

Downey said one of the goals of the program is to increase the number of diverse faculty in early childhood education.

[It is] designed to help to recruit and train underrepresented faculty of color so people who really look and speak like the field, and we want those people in front of our new teachers or teacher candidates, she explained.

All early childhood degrees offered through the university are available online, with some programs offering blended and on-campus options.

Students interested in working in a public school setting or other education space that requires a license can earn a bachelor's in early childhood education, which is directly tied to licensure in Illinois. The university also offers an online competency-based degree designed for students who already have experience in early childhood education and want to pursue a bachelor's degree.

NLU's National College of Education offers both master's and doctoral degrees, with programs ranging from traditional licensure to early childhood administration and early childhood leadership.

One of the institute's goals will be to conduct research in the early childhood education field, which Downey says NLU has not pursued on a universitywide level until now.

We have a lot of faculty that like to engage in research and do research as a part of their work, but this will allow us to develop an applied early childhood research agenda, Downey said.

The research that we'll be doing, which is new under the institute, will directly lead to either improved programming or we'll be using our research to help inform administrative policy.

The institute's launch is slated for late 2024, and research will begin the following year. Downey says the university will continue to expand its competency-based program and recruit faculty of color, both of which will be supported by the institute.

The institute is really going to help us to improve upon what we would say are already pretty excellent services, and we'll just continue to grow those, she said.

We'll also be able to provide students with more programming that's grounded in contemporary research that's based on what we know to be best practices and what we're learning about what children, communities, families and the workforce needs in order to really succeed.