Patrica Snyder
University of Florida Professor Patricia Snyder, director of the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, has been named the new recipient of the Division for Early Childhood Award for Mentoring. Commonly known as DEC, the organization, a division of the Council for Exceptional Children, presented Snyder with the award on Oct. 9 at its annual conference in Atlanta.

Promoting policies and advancing evidence-based practices, DEC is an international professional membership organization for those who work with, or on behalf of young children with disabilities or other special needs and their families. The mentoring award recognizes a member who has provided significant training and guidance to students and new practitioners in the field.

Snyder, a professor of special education and early childhood studies and the David Lawrence Jr. Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies, has devoted her career to improving services and supports for young children with disabilities, their families, and the interdisciplinary personnel who support them. She has guided practitioners from many disciplines, including early childhood educators and health-care professionals. Among her academic positions, she has held professorships in early childhood studies, special education, occupational therapy, and pediatrics.

Her dedication to preparing future generations of leaders is rooted in Snyder’s deep appreciation for the preparation she received from her own mentors, including J. David Sexton, a former president of DEC for whom the DEC doctoral student award is named. Three of Snyder’s students have been recipients of the J. David Sexton doctoral student award and Snyder was a recipient herself in 1992.

Leading a team of faculty mentors in the Anita Zucker Center, Snyder guides and trains postdoctoral fellows and doctoral, masters, and undergraduate students affiliated with the center. She provides them with the skills needed to conduct research and apply practices in early childhood studies. Throughout her career, she has mentored more than 40 graduate students from a variety of disciplines.

A doctoral student in the UF College of Education, Tara McLaughlin, who graduated in 2011, continued to work under Snyder’s mentorship for two years as a research scientist. McLaughlin has carried her training forward, building her career today as a senior lecturer at Massey University in New Zealand.

McLaughlin cites Snyder’s outstanding commitment to excellence, innovation and effectiveness in mentoring for making an impact on her life and the lives of many others.

“In the spirit of influencing generations of future leaders, each of us who have been so strongly influenced by Dr. Snyder, will do our best to carry on her living legacy,” McLaughlin said.

Kathleen Artman Meeker, an assistant professor at the University of Washington credits Snyder with helping her to transition from an early childhood special educator to a researcher who is firmly grounded in practice.

“Dr. Snyder built a community in which theory and practice were equally valued and where novices could build on their experiences and make valuable contributions,” said Meeker. “She has truly set the bar in outstanding mentoring for me as I have begun advising my own doctoral students.”

Snyder was one of two faculty members in the UF College of Education being recognized at the DEC conference. Mary McLean, a professor of special education and early childhood studies and member of the Anita Zucker Center, received the DEC Mary McEvoy Service to the Field Award. The award, one of the division’s highest recognitions, was given to Snyder in 2012.