Lisa Downey, EdD
Executive Director, McCormick Institute for Early Childhood

Dr. Lisa Downey is the Executive Director of the McCormick Institute for Early Childhood at National Louis University. Named to this role in 2024, Dr. Downey oversees the programming and operations for the Institute, that aims to elevate teachers, leaders and practitioners in the early childhood workforce through programming that is innovative, responsive and fueled by action research, practice, and community/policy engagement. The Institute houses the Center for Early Childhood Leadership as well as other units dedicated to workforce innovation and applied ECE research and ECE policy engagement.

Prior to being named to her current role, Dr. Downey served as the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Educator Preparation at NLU, where she grew the program from just under 200 students to over 1500 and secured over 13 million dollars in grant funding, designed to support teacher candidates from underrepresented communities as well as the incumbent Early Childhood workforce. In this role, Dr. Downey oversaw all of the Undergraduate Majors, Minors and Concentrations in the Department. Dr. Downey’s area of expertise is Early Childhood Education but she is passionate about all aspects of teaching and learning as they pertain to access, equity and quality in the field of education.

Dr. Downey has worked at NLU since 2011, first as a field coach and adjunct professor and then, in 2014, she was hired in the full-time role of Assistant Professor. Dr. Downey attained the rank of Associate Professor in 2020. Lisa has spent over 30 years working in the field of education in roles such as Early Childhood Teacher, Child Care Center Director, Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) Resource Developer, Training Coordinator and as the Director of Provider Services at Illinois Action for Children, where she oversaw a multi-million-dollar program across eight sites in Cook County. Dr. Downey’s dissertation topic was “Exploring the Development of Academic Writing with Multilingual College Students.”

Awards and recognitions:

  • Excellence in Service and Engagement, NLU
  • Distinguished Teaching Award, NLU
  • Illinois Action for Children Bridge Builder Award
  • Kohl McCormick Early Childhood Teaching Award Nominee


  • Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education (Roosevelt University, 2000)
  • Master’s Degree in Education, Early Childhood Leadership and Advocacy (National-Louis University, 2003)
  • Doctoral Degree in Education, Educational Leadership (National Louis University, 2019)

Research interests:

  • Writing Across the Curriculum
  • Equity in higher education
  • Improving conditions for the early childhood workforce



Downey, L., & Green, N. (2024). A New Model for Undergraduate Teacher Preparation. In Transforming Educator Preparation for Changing Times. Information Age Publishing, Inc.