OXFORD, Miss. – Melody Musgrove, an accomplished public education leader and advocate, has joined the University of Mississippi faculty as co-director of the Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning and associate professor of special education.
Housed within the UM School of Education, the center was established in 2015 to provide research and collaborative leadership to advocate for more quality pre-K education programs throughout the state. The center is financially supported by the Phil Hardin Foundation of Meridian.
“The combination of working with the graduate center and the chance to teach at this university is a very appealing opportunity,” said Musgrove, a Mississippi native. “I believe that Ole Miss is on the move in the field of teacher education and I am excited to be part of that.”
Before joining UM, Musgrove served as director of the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education from 2010 to 2016. OSEP oversees the administration of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a law that ensures educational services and opportunities for children of all ages. The $13 billion program provides grants, monitoring and technical assistance to states.
Musgrove, who also served as state director of special education with the Mississippi Department of Education, started her career as a classroom teacher. This is Musgrove’s first major faculty appointment in higher education.
In her new role, she will teach undergraduate and graduate courses in education and work alongside the center’s other co-director, Cathy Grace. As collaborative leaders, the two will work to provide professional development for pre-K teachers, conduct research on the importance and impact of early learning, and provide public and political advocacy for the expansion of early childhood education statewide.
“I am thrilled that a person of Dr. Musgrove’s experience and long-term commitment to Mississippi’s children will be joining the center,” Grace said. “Her wealth of knowledge relative to meeting the needs of all children, especially those with special needs, will allow the center to broaden the opportunities we will offer.”
The Graduate Center was established as a continuation of the School of Education’s efforts to prioritize the training of pre-K educators in Mississippi.
According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, several studies show quality preschool programs can produce lasting gains in academic achievement, including gains in reading and mathematics. Studies also show an estimated $7 return on every $1 invested in public pre-K education in the form of long-term cost savings.
Mississippi offers no statewide early childhood education in public schools.
Musgrove holds a doctorate in educational leadership and a master’s degree in special education from the University of Southern Mississippi and a bachelor’s degree in education from Mississippi College.
“We have a responsibility to raise awareness of the importance of early learning both in general education and in children with disabilities,” Musgrove said. “Dr. Grace has done a great job with this already, and I am excited to be part of that good work.”