Buell Early Childhood Leadership

Graduate Certificate

Become an agent for change and influential leader who will transform the landscape of early childhood education. Create better opportunities for children across Colorado with this 18-credit certificate 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: December

The Details

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 20 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 in programs, policies and practices and the advancement of equity, excellence, and opportunity for all of Colorado’s 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 a number of master's or doctoral programs offered at the CU Denver’s School of Education & Human Development.

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.

Course Schedule

  • Courses will meet in person one weekend per month at Clayton Early Learning unless noted otherwise, with online learning between in person meetings.
  • Friday evening classes are from 4 - 9 p.m. and Saturday classes are from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., with the exception of one Friday Day on Capitol Hill from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.


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

Due to generous funding by the Buell Foundation, all admitted students receive a scholarship for the program’s required 18 credits. Students incur other costs related to the program including books, travel and lodging for class meetings in Denver.

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

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

Information Sessions

Information sessions are hosted several times each fall. These sessions offer an opportunity for you to meet Buell faculty and learn more about the program and the application process.

Please call us with questions at 303-315-5000 or email us at beclp@ucdenver.edu.