Nebraska Early Childhood Research Academy
NAECR Identity


The mission of the Nebraska Academy for Early Childhood Research (NAECR) is to engage in, generate and support interdisciplinary research to benefit young children birth to age 8 and enhance the environments within which they learn and grow.


  • Advance the scientific knowledge base of issues related to early childhood, including development, interventions, systems, and policies;
  • Enhance the scope, quality, and impact of UNL’s grant-supported interdisciplinary early childhood research; and
  • Translate research findings to support the health and well-being of young children.


  • Support and establish research collaborations and programs characterized by a cross-section of interdisciplinary perspectives within UNL and across the University of Nebraska system to build an intellectual knowledge base on early childhood issues;
  • Promote partnerships with local, national, and international entities;
  • Leverage extramural funds to advance research (basic, applied, and translational) capacity and productivity associated with early childhood; and
  • Disseminate research findings to (a) support evidence-based practices and programs across home, educational, and community settings; and (b) inform policy decisions.


NAECR is housed within the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools (CYFS) in UNL’s College of Education and Human Sciences (CEHS). NAECR brings together individuals from a variety of disciplines including UNL researchers in several departments across campus to address chronic challenges that affect many young children in Nebraska.

NAECR will stimulate and support faculty efforts to pursue game-changing research to help policy makers, early childhood professionals, researchers, educators and others improve the trajectory of all young Nebraskans—especially those who face challenges in achieving academic and life success.

Core activities of NAECR will include research grant procurement and execution, formal and informal scholarly interactions and training to build capacity of faculty and graduate students, as well as proactive outreach, translation and dissemination.

Organizational Structure


Lisa L. Knoche, Ph.D.

Steering Committee

Kelley Buchheister

Kelley Buchheister, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Child, Youth & Family Studies
MABL 130
Lincoln, NE 68588-0236

Research: Dr. Buchheister studies student learning in early mathematics and STEM related fields. Her explicit research focuses on two things: addressing the need to attend to equitable opportunities in teacher education, and working to develop our understanding of students’ interpretations of mathematical ideas, particularly represented through engineering activities like block play.

Marc Goodrich

Marc Goodrich, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Special Education & Communication Disorders
BKC 348
Lincoln, NE 68583-0738

Research: Dr. Goodrich’s research focuses on examining the development of language and literacy skills among children in the United States who speak a language other than English at home, including language-minority children and English-language learners, with a particular focus on native Spanish speakers.

Cynthia Cress

Cynthia Cress, Ph.D.
Alan T. Seagren Associate Professor of Education Special Education & Communication Disorders
BKC 202F
Lincoln, NE 68583-0738

Research: Dr. Cress specializes in language development and disorders, early intervention, and augmentative communication. Her main research activities involve communication assessment intervention for young children with severe disabilities. She is norming new screening and assessment tools for detecting communication risk in infants under 12 months.

Soo-Young Hong

Soo-Young Hong, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Child, Youth & Family Studies
MABL 253
Lincoln, NE 68588-0236

Research: Dr. Hong focuses on EC professional development in science education and preschool inclusion. She is interested in studying effective ways to engage teachers and children in science learning, and promoting children’s acceptance of peers with disabilities and their teachers’ understanding of children with different levels of abilities.

Lisa Knoche

Lisa Knoche, Ph.D.
Research Associate Professor
Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families & Schools
Project Director, Getting Ready Project
TEAC 238
Lincoln, NE 68588-0360

Research: Dr. Knoche’s research focuses on the design, development, and evaluation of early childhood interven¬tion and prevention programs to support healthy development in young children and support family engagement in early learning, and identifying and supporting effective professional development strategies for early childhood professionals.

Stephanie Wessels, Ph.D.

Stephanie Wessels, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Teaching, Learning & Teacher Education
Lincoln, NE 68588-0355

Research: Dr. Wessels’ coursework, research, and teaching has focused on literacy development for young second language readers for the past several years.

Meredith Martin

Meredith Martin, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Educational Psychology
Lincoln, NE 68588-0345

Research: Dr. Martin’s current research is focused on identifying:

  • Distinct, prototypical strategies children adopt to manage peer group threats,
  • The consequences, both positive and negative, of these strategies for children’s long-term mental health and adjustment, and
  • The underlying cascade of developmental processes linking interpersonal threat exposure and school adjustment problems.
Sarah Zuckerman

Sarah Zuckerman, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Educational Administration
TEAC 132
Lincoln, NE 68588-0360

Research: Dr. Zuckerman’s research focuses primarily on place-based multi-sector partnerships for simultaneous education and community renewal. She has special interests in Early Childhood Education, Rural Schools and Communities.

Kathleen Rudasill

Kathleen Rudasill, Ph.D.
Associate Professor; Co-Director of Early Development and Learning Lab Education Psychology
TEAC 221
Lincoln, NE 68588-0360

Research: Dr. Rudasill’s research is directed toward understanding how children’s individual differences (particularly in temperament) are related to academic and social success, and how this relationship is moderated and mediated by classroom processes.

Marc Goodrich

Ruth Heaton, Ph.D.
Teaching, Learning & Teacher Education
Lincoln, NE 68588-0355

Research: Dr. Heaton’s research interests in mathematics education are in the areas of teaching, teacher learning, and teacher knowledge.