April 4, 2024

National Louis University to Launch Institute for Early Childhood with $5 Million McCormick Foundation Grant

by McCormick Center Staff

CHICAGO (March 28, 2024) – National Louis University (NLU) is pleased to announce the creation of the McCormick Institute for Early Childhood. Made possible in part by a generous grant of $5 million from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the Institute will officially launch in late fall 2024 with the mission to expand access, equity, and innovation within the early childhood education (ECE) sector.

According to a September 2023 study, there are nearly 40,000 fewer childcare workers nationwide compared to February 2020. While COVID-19 may have exacerbated issues within the field, the workforce shortage predates the pandemic by at least two years. In an effort to increase and expedite progress in attracting and retaining qualified educators, the Institute will focus on workforce learning, credentialing innovation, and applied research through the lens of advancing knowledge that helps to inform both practice and policy.

“The McCormick Institute for Early Childhood is yet another testament to our long history of, and deep commitment to, supporting the early childhood workforce.” said Dr. Nivine Megahed, president of National Louis University. “NLU graduates more early childhood educators and teachers than any other institution in Illinois, and we hope to see that number grow.”

The Institute will combine NLU’s early childhood intellectual capital of the Undergraduate College, the National College of Education, and the Center for Early Childhood Leadership. With all of the university’s ECE talent in one collaborative space, the Institute will implement and support high-quality, evidence-based services and programs; foster a climate of innovation to scale workforce solutions; expand the development and evaluation of leadership practices and professional development; and develop a strong applied research agenda that will inform practice and policy for the early childhood workforce, impacting young children and families across the city, state and country.

Lisa Downey, Ed.D., current Associate Dean of Undergraduate Educator Preparation at NLU, will assume the role of Executive Director of the McCormick Institute for Early Childhood. In addition to her 30 years of experience in early childhood care and education, Dr. Downey holds a Master of Education in Early Childhood Leadership and Advocacy and a Doctorate in Education Leadership, both from National Louis University.

“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,” said Dr. Lisa Downey, incoming executive director of the Institute. “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.”

As the birthplace of the kindergarten movement, National Louis University has deep roots in early childhood education and is nationally recognized for its innovation, excellence and equity-minded work. NLU has driven innovations such as competency-based degree programming in early childhood and new early childhood faculty workforce preparation programs to address the training needs of the incumbent workforce, while also increasing the number of diverse higher education faculty who will train future generations of early childhood teachers and leaders.


About National Louis University: National Louis is a nonprofit, non-denominational university focused on preparing the diverse workforce of tomorrow and widening access to quality educational and career opportunities for all learners. NLU offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees across a wide variety of fields, serving approximately 10,000 students annually at locations in Illinois and Florida as well as online. Visit nl.edu for more info.