Graduate School

The University of Mississippi

GAs Expand Knowledge through Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning

Educators even at the collegiate level stand to benefit from working with young children.

Prior to working with the Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning at the University of Mississippi, Tyler James had no experience with early education.

“I graduated undergrad with a degree in secondary education social studies, so all of my experience has been with older students,” he said. “I came in with little to no knowledge of early childhood policy or teachings.”

James is one of two graduate assistants (the other is Kellon Duff), working with GCSEL to advance research and policy regarding early childhood education. James described the scope of their work as “[everything] from conducting research in latest policies around the country from federal to local legislatures, to helping Dr. (Cathy) Grace with professional developments.”

Grace is co-director of GCSEL, along with recent addition Melody Musgrove, UM associate professor of special education, and she takes the mission of the center very seriously.

“All decisions made by the staff and our partners support our beliefs and are reflected in our commitment to supporting teachers, teacher educators and systems that promote the well-being of young children and their families,” Grace said. “It’s this commitment that has made working with the GCSEL edifying for James, even as an educator at the secondary level.”

Locally, the center’s graduate assistants have been working as close to home as on the university campus itself.

“Recently, Kellon and I had the pleasure of working with the preschool here on campus, the Willie Price Lab School,” James said. “We were tasked with setting up a new room for college students and professors who want to come in and work with the preschoolers.”

Educators even at the collegiate level stand to benefit from working with young children and early childhood education because of the light it sheds on students’ future learning behaviors.

James encapsulated this idea, with relation to his own experience, saying, “It has truly been something special for me as a secondary educator to be working with Dr. Grace because now I have this understanding of how early childhood education is operated, which gives me a better perspective of how students are taught by the time they reach me in middle or high school.”

The center has also just made a move to be closer to its statewide partner organization.

“We just recently moved our offices from Guyton Hall to Insight Park and are housed in the same location as the North Mississippi Education Consortium,” James said. “We partner with the NMEC on providing professional development for early childhood education professionals in north Mississippi and throughout the state.”

Grace said she believes that, in addition to expanding the professional horizons of educators at all levels, the center creates and supports environments where children may thrive and enjoy learning.

“We believe that all children have the right to learn and grow in an environment that supports a natural ability to explore, create and wonder,” she said.

James said he has benefited greatly from being a part of the center.

“It has honestly been an amazing opportunity for me, learning from Dr. Grace and everyone this past year as I have learned so much that will help me as I continue my career as an educator.”