Graduate Certificate in Early Childhood Leadership, Buell Program

Graduate Certificate

Prepares students to become influential leaders who will transform the landscape of early childhood education. The coursework focuses on leadership practices specific to child development, learning organizations, and community and systems change that advance equity, excellence, and opportunity among all young children and families. Generously funded by the Buell Foundation.

The Program at a Glance

School: School of Education & Human Development Campus: CU Denver Classroom: Online and on campus classes Recommended completion time: 14 months Credits required for completion: 18 Minimum education level: Conferred bachelor's degree Application deadline: Application for 2021-2022 cohort is open. Deadline is December 4, 2020.

The Details

2020 Information Sessions

Please join representatives from CU Denver’s School of Education & Human Development and Clayton Early Learning to learn more about the Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program by attending a Zoom information session. Please RSVP to a session using the link below.

  • October 14, 2020 4:00pm – 5:00pm
  • October 15, 2020 1:00pm – 2:00pm
  • October 21, 2010 5:30pm – 6:30pm
  • October 27, 2020 1:00pm – 2:00pm
  • October 29, 2020 5:30pm – 6:30pm
  • November 7, 2020 9:00am – 10:00am

RSVP to an Information Session.

More information about the Information Sessions.

The Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program will begin accepting applications for the 2021-2022 cohort in Fall 2020!

Program Description

The University of Colorado Denver’s Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program will prepare you to be a transformational leader in early childhood. You’ll learn about leadership practices specific to child development, learning organizations, and community and systems change. Annually, a diverse cohort of 18-22 fellows from across Colorado holding a variety of professional roles, receive full tuition funding by the Buell Foundation to engage in learning experiences that deepen their capacity to lead early childhood community and systems innovation and change.

This graduate certificate program, offered in partnership with Clayton Early Learning and the Buell Foundation, enrolls early childhood professionals who are committed to positive change within early childhood programs, policies, and practices to advance equity, excellence, and opportunity with all young children and families.

After completing the program, Buell Fellows join an alumni network that fosters ongoing connections and leadership learning. Students are also able to apply credits earned in this program into one of several master’s or doctoral programs offered at the CU Denver’s School of Education & Human Development.

About the Cohorts

Learn more about the 13th Buell cohort.

The Buell Foundation in partnership with University of Colorado Denver and Clayton Early Learning is pleased to announce the 13th Cohort of Fellows. We have invited another set of diverse early childhood leaders to join the Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program to begin in May 2020. This impressive group of leaders are serving in a variety of professional roles across early learning, health, and wellness. This year we are delighted to have additional funds to enroll twenty-two candidates who have committed to join the 2020-2021 program year. We are grateful to the alumni and community partners who encouraged and supported all of the candidates to apply this year and to the alumni who served on the selection team. The commitment and passion that many have for leading change especially during this critical time within their communities and across the state of Colorado is inspiring to us. It is an honor to have the opportunity to teach and learn with this group of early childhood leaders this year!

Read and learn about the 11th cohort’s leadership stories in everyday contexts. The stories feature the issues and conversations Buell Fellows engage with and in during the program year.

Time Commitment

Courses are offered in a hybrid format with classes meeting in person and by Zoom. A detailed calendar with 2021-2022 program dates will be shared with applicants in full prior to commitment to participation.


ECED 5330: Introduction to Transformational Leadership

This course outlines the evolution of leadership theory over the past half-century and immerses students in an exploration of the values, leadership capacities, and practices that define transformational leadership as they apply to effecting change to support the success and well-being of young children and their families and communities. 3 credits

ECED 5311: Leadership for Equity in Early Childhood Programs

This course is designed to provide early childhood leaders with an understanding of the equity issues present in early childhood systems and how these issues are reflected in individual identities and programs. Theories from the academic community will be used to facilitate student growth in understanding how these issues interact with them at a personal, professional and leadership level. 3 credits

ECED 5301: Child Development: Theory to Leadership Practices

This course will provide an introduction to theories of child development from an interdisciplinary perspective. It examines development in the cognitive and socioemotional domains utilizing biological, social, psychological and anthropological perspectives and how theory is used to shape program models. 3 credits

ECED 5312: Leading Learning Organizations

This course will deepen student's capacity to lead effectively and learn how to create an adaptive, flexible learning organization well positioned for delivering effective and sustainable programs and services on behalf of young children and families. 3 credits

ECED 5350: Policy and Advocacy in Early Childhood

This course provides the historical and political context of early care and education in the United States. Local, state and federal mandates, public laws, and legislative procedures and initiatives will be investigated. 3 credits

ECED 5320: Community-based Action Research: Capstone

The course focuses on the leader’s role in promoting inquiry as a means to improve the ECE field. Students will gain experience with community-based action research as a methodology for addressing critical systems and program issues affecting their work. 3 credits

Cost/Scholarships & Grants

Generous funding by the Buell Foundation provides for each admitted student (Buell Fellow) to receive the full tuition for the 18 required credits. Fellows will incur costs throughout the year related to books, travel and lodging while attending classes in Denver.

Choose CU Denver's School of Education & Human Development

You can trust CU Denver to provide an education that will prepare you for excellence in your career as an early childhood leader. We have a name that is recognized for preparing leaders of excellence who inspire others. Additionally, CU Denver’s School of Education & Human Development is counted among U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Graduate Schools,” making us one of the top education schools in the country.

Admissions Requirements

Minimum qualifications to apply to the program include:

  • Conferred bachelor’s degree.
  • Direct experience working with and/or on behalf of children birth to eight and their families in the field of early childhood health, mental health, family support, or early learning that has informed leadership practice.


The admissions committee considers the following in each applicant:

  • Openness to learn and apply leadership practices
  • Commitment to participate and contribute to a diverse cohort
  • Demonstrated professional competencies and potential
  • Strength of academic record

Applications must be submitted in December to be considered for the cohort that begins the following calendar year. Applicants will be selected upon completion of our application process. 

Please call us with questions at 303-315-5000 or email us at