Sue Warford named Woman of Year by URI women’s professional group

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Association for Academic and Professional Women cites Wakefield resident’s commitment to young people

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 5, 2015 — If you look at the long list of professional, academic and research accomplishments of Susan D.G. Warford, you have to wonder how she has had time for anything else.

But she’s always had time to love, nurture and develop hundreds of little ones and URI students during almost three decades of work as the program director of the University of Rhode Island’s Child Development Center. According to the URI Association of Academic and Professional Women, Warford’s kindness and commitment to young people have touched people across campus and indeed, across the state.

For the Wakefield resident’s contributions during her 27 years at URI and to its Child Development Center, as well as her early childhood work across the state, Warford has been named the association’s Woman of the Year.

Warford will be honored Wednesday, May 6, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the University Club, 95 Upper College Road.

“Sue’s retirement from the Child Development Center in Kingston is a significant loss for URI and the College of Human Science and Services,” said Lori E. Ciccomascolo, interim dean of the College. “As the director, Sue balanced the dual mission of the center, a laboratory for early development and a childcare facility with research opportunities to further the knowledge of students in early child development and education. But her managerial accomplishments pale in comparison to her kindness and compassion for her colleagues and the children at the center. There is a saying that ‘It takes a big heart to help shape little minds,’ and I think that perfectly describes Sue.”

Parents and former students who sent in testimonials on behalf of Warford have similar sentiments.

In a note to the award’s selection committee, one mom said her daughter was a student at the Child Development Center and is now in 5th grade. This is what the youngster had to say about Warford: “Sue was my absolute favorite teacher in the world! I would wake up in the morning and say, ‘I hope Sue is there today.’ She made me feel like I was the greatest kid in the world. Special!”

Stephen Yang, now an eighth grade teacher with Boston Public Schools, said Warford and the center “played a pivotal role in my early development. I am a creative, thoughtful, and effective educator now because I was taught and encouraged to be myself at an early age.”

“I am honored, overwhelmed and awed,” said Warford, who was the URI Foundation’s Administrative Excellence Award winner in 2005 and URI’s College of Human Science and Services Outstanding Professional Staff award winner in 2004.

While serving as the Child Development Center’s director, Warford was an educational consultant, writer and editor for the state’s Early Learning Standards Project for the state Department of Education, was a member of several URI search committees and a member of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies Undergraduate Committee.

Her outreach includes membership on the Governor’s Early Learning Council, the Rhode Island early Learning Council Work Group, the state’s TEACH Advisory Council and the Early Childhood Professional Core Competency Workshop for the state Department of Education.

While her service and multiple professional publications and presentations focused on the development of pre-school and kindergarten children and University students wishing to enter the field, her heart was in the day-to-day work with young people.

“I think of myself as a very lucky woman who has had the opportunity to work with children, families, and University students,” Warford said. “There is nothing like being around children to give you a fresh view of the world. And there is nothing like working with University students as they bring excitement and new ideas to the center.”

A graduate of Wesleyan University in Connecticut where she earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and of the University of Massachusetts where she her earned her master’s degree in early childhood education, Warford said URI’s Child Development Center’s mission is to be a laboratory for URI students and teachers. Through two human development and family studies classes, University students are required to complete classroom practicums under the direction of Warford and the center’s teachers.

“There are many similarities between pre-school children and college students,” Warford said. “Both groups thirst for learning. They are eager, active learners, and the dynamic of having those two groups working together is wonderful.

“The University students take what they learn from their professors and apply that to their time with the children. They bring a certain kind of energy to working with children. But the children take ownership of their part of the process by showing the URI students about their environment, how and where to wash their hands and how and where learning materials and toys are to be put away.”

In addition to being around so much youthful energy, Warford is grateful to be part of the overall campus hustle and bustle.

“There is so much going on at URI that we have been able to tap into,” Warford said.

The center’s children, URI students and their teachers have planted flowers at the new Heber Youngken Jr. Medicinal Garden at the College of Pharmacy, participated in a community sing during URI’s Diversity Week and have run an art sale to benefit the Rhode island Community Food Bank.

“It’s a delight to be a director at such a wonderful place as URI,” Warford said.