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OU Names New Director of the Early Childhood Education Institute


OU Names New Director of the Early Childhood Education Institute



June 18, 2024

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Bonnie Rucker
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TULSA, OKLA. – The University of Oklahoma Early Childhood Education Institute (ECEI) on the Tulsa campus has announced the appointment of Kathleen Gallagher, Ph.D. as the new director, pending OU Board of Regents’ approval and effective Aug. 1, 2024. Gallagher will replace long-time ECEI founder and director Diane Horm, Ph.D., after her retirement in Dec. 2024.

“We extend our warmest welcome to Dr. Kathleen Gallagher as she joins the University of Oklahoma,” said Stacy Reeder, Ph.D., dean of the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education. “The Early Childhood Education Institute is incredibly valuable to the college and to early childhood education research in the state and beyond. With her deep understanding of this vitally important work, Dr. Gallagher is well prepared to carry on the research the ECEI has expertly championed. Dr. Gallagher’s experience and expertise will surely continue to elevate the mission of the ECEI into this next chapter and beyond, building on the legacy established by Dr. Horm.”

Kathleen Gallagher, Ph.D..

The search committee, comprising seven faculty members from the Norman and Tulsa campuses of the College of Education, embarked on a meticulous process to identify and recruit esteemed scholars in the field of early childhood research. With a keen focus on candidates possessing a track record of securing national grants or directing research centers, the committee curated a list of prominent researchers.

After a broad recruitment process and rigorous screening, finalists participated in on-site three-day interview processes. This comprehensive evaluation encompassed dedicated sessions at OU-Tulsa, the ECEI, community partners and the OU Norman campus. Recognizing the importance of garnering diverse perspectives, the committee actively solicited feedback from all college of education constituencies and community partners, ensuring a well-informed and inclusive decision-making process. This approach underscores the college's commitment to excellence and its dedication to fostering collaborative relationships within the broader educational ecosystem.

Gallagher comes to OU from the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska, where she has served as director of research and evaluation since 2018. Gallagher also served as endowed chair and professor of education at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and holds courtesy appointments in developmental psychology (University of Nebraska Omaha) and children, youth and family studies (University of Nebraska Lincoln). Her work focuses on developing applied research and evaluation studies involving children from birth through grade three, their families, and the early childhood professionals who care for and teach young children. Prior to the University of Nebraska, Gallagher served as a research scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she also taught in the school of education. Gallagher has more than 30 years of experience as an early childhood professional and educational psychologist.

An active and accomplished scholar of early childhood education best practices, Gallagher has published several book chapters and scores of articles in leading academic journals in her field. She has also presented widely at numerous highly regarded national and international conferences. She has served on the editorial boards of several scholarly publications including Early Childhood Research Quarterly and the Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education. Gallagher’s research has been widely funded by state and federal governmental agencies as well as private foundations, having received nearly $25 million in grants.

Gallagher has taught at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels on subjects such as child development and family studies, curriculum and instruction, and social relationships and developmental competence. Serving as a mentor for others, she serves as a peer reviewer for dozens of publications in the education sector.

Diane Horm, the current George Kaiser Family Foundation Endowed Chair and founding director of the ECEI, said that she is extremely comfortable with Gallagher coming on board as her successor. “Dr. Gallagher has deep knowledge of early childhood content, experience working in early childhood programs, applied research expertise that aligns with the ECEI’s mission and vision, and experience at two other top-notch university-affiliated early childhood research groups. This combination of background experiences uniquely qualifies her to take over leadership of the ECEI. I feel confident that she will excel as she builds on the ECEI’s capacities to continue its growth and foster its prominence as a national leader in ECE research.”  

Gallagher earned a bachelor of arts in education/special education (early childhood) from Cardinal Stritch University and a master of arts degree in education policy/foundations from Marquette University. She also attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she earned her Ph.D. in educational psychology/human development.

About the Early Childhood Education Institute

The Early Childhood Education Institute (ECEI) at OU-Tulsa advances and supports early childhood programming and policies by generating, disseminating, and applying meaningful research. As research institute focused on young children (birth to age 8) in early childhood programs, ECEI conducts a variety of program evaluation projects, works with many state and national partners, and impacts policy and programming decisions.

About the University of Oklahoma

Founded in 1890, the University of Oklahoma is a public research university located in Norman, Oklahoma. As the state’s flagship university, OU serves the educational, cultural, economic and health care needs of the state, region and nation. OU was named the state’s highest-ranking university in U.S. News & World Report’s most recent Best Colleges list. For more information about the university, visit

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