Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning


Our team of researchers and pre-K specialists provide collaborative leadership and research-based information concerning child development, education, policy decisions, and more for stakeholders in early childhood education across Mississippi and beyond. 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.

About the Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning

The Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning (GCSEL) was founded in 2015, as component of UM's School of Education. We created the center to help prepare teachers of young children form birth through age 8 years of age.

The Center continues and enhances its work with the help of generous donations from The Phil Hardin Foundation, The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Mississippi Development Authority, and State of Mississippi.


The vision of the Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning is to provide informed leadership, research and interdisciplinary collaboration in the field of child development and early education.  

The Center is deeply committed to respecting the rights of children to learn and grow in an environment that supports their natural ability to explore, experiment, create and wonder.


The mission of the Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning is to promote and facilitate the support of child development and learning by establishing policies and practices dedicated to:

  • Providing leadership in the field as well as informing leaders charged with decisions that impact the lives of children birth-8 years of age.
  • Conducting research and reporting various research findings that have a direct impact on the well-being of children birth to 8 years of age and their families.
  • Collaborating with stakeholders and programs that focus on the needs of young children and their families.


The GCSEL continually dedicated to the following goals:

  • Serve as an online resource to various stakeholders by providing information on the education and healthy development of young children.
  • Provide information and professional development on the most current research-based/best practice approach for use in educating children birth-8 years of age to teachers, school administrators, policy makers and parents.
  • Provide families information to support their role as the child’s first and most important teacher.
  • Generate and/or report research findings on the negative impact poverty has on brain development of young children to inform stakeholders for the purpose of developing and implementing interventions to offset potential developmental delays.
  • Support the implementation of the University’s graduate early childhood programs.
  • Support the operation of the campus early care and education program serving pre-school children.

Meet the staff of GCSEL

We're always excited to help improve the lives of our youngest learners!
Gena Puckett

Gena Puckett

  • Education and Training Specialist III
  • Willie Price Early Childhood Center

    The GCSEL supports the staff at the Willie Price Early Childhood Center on campus. Willie Price serves three and four year-old children using the most current instructional strategies and curriculum that is age appropriate. Support to staff comes in the form of professional development and classroom coaching.

    Learn more about Willie Price
  • North Mississippi Education Consortium

    In partnership with NMEC, the Center provides professional development to area teachers of children birth-8 years of age.

    Learn more about the North Mississippi Education Consortium
  • Supporting Early Childhood Teacher Educators in Mississippi

    The Center leads an effort to strengthen the preparation of early childhood education teachers graduating from state and private institutions of higher learning across the state. This involves bringing early childhood teacher educators representing colleges and universities together for the purpose of strengthening the knowledge and skills of early childhood teacher candidates during their course of study.

Interested in Becoming an Early Childhood Educator?

If you're interested in becoming an early childhood educator, the University of Mississippi is the perfect place to start your career!