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Executive Director of Child Development Center retires as center celebrates 50 years 

Photo courtesy of Sharon Carnahan

Rollins College’s Hume House Child Development & Student Research Center is not just a preschool; it’s a cornerstone of learning, research, and community engagement. As the center marks its 50th anniversary, it also bids farewell to its dedicated Executive Director, Sharon Carnahan, who has led the institution for an impressive 34 years. 

Established in 1975 as a laboratory preschool for Rollins College undergraduates in the Psychology Department, the Hume House has grown into a vital hub for research, education, and community outreach. Serving children aged 2 to 5 years, the center prides itself on inclusive learning environments tailored to individual needs, ensuring optimum growth for every child, including those with special needs. 

“I think because our whole team was able to get this building constructed, the team’s legacy is that little children have a permanent place in the curriculum at Rollins College,” Carnahan said. With a focus on hands-on experiences and fostering independence, the center embraces a constructivist approach, emphasizing children’s active involvement in their own learning journey. 

Over the years, the center has not only educated undergraduates but also welcomed students from diverse departments, offering a unique learning environment that extends beyond traditional psychology classes. From education and art history to physics and foreign languages, students across disciplines engage with children in various capacities, gaining invaluable insights into child development and educational practices. 

As the Rollins College community celebrates the remarkable career of Carnahan, testimonials from students and colleagues alike underscore her profound influence both inside and outside the classroom. 

Nchimunya Mwiinga (‘25), a health promotions intern and president of the African Student Union, shares a heartfelt tribute to Dr. Carnahan’s mentorship and support. From the inclusive learning environment she cultivated to her nurturing presence beyond academics, Dr. Carnahan’s impact on individual students like Nchimunya is palpable. Her commitment to fostering a sense of community exemplifies the values cherished at Rollins College. 

Janie Inscore (‘25), a psychology student, reflects on Dr. Carnahan’s impact from a student’s perspective. With admiration for Dr. Carnahan’s dedication to the field, Janie highlights the profound influence she had on psychology students like herself. Through her leadership at the Hume House Child Development & Student Research Center and her forthcoming keynote event, Dr. Carnahan continues to inspire and empower the Rollins community. 

Photo courtesy of Sharon Carnahan

“Sharon Carnahan’s tenure at Rollins College has been marked by a profound dedication to enhancing childcare and educational opportunities for children and families as well as enriching the academic experience for students,” said colleague, Marc Fetscherin. Over almost two decades, her impact has been felt deeply within the Rollins community and beyond. 

“From the early days at the Child Development Center (CDC), Sharon’s unwavering commitment to excellence and her genuine care for children shone through,” added Fetscherin. “The growth from a modest facility to the state-of-the-art Hume House Child Development & Student Research Center is a testament to Sharon’s tireless advocacy and leadership.” 

“Beyond physical infrastructure, Sharon’s influence extended to the heart of childcare practices,” said Fetscherin. “As a developmental psychologist, she championed inclusion efforts for children with disabilities and spearheaded initiatives to promote best practices in early childhood education locally and internationally.” 

Colleague, Alice Davidson, aptly summarizes Carnahan’s impact, noting that Rollins College has been enriched by her presence for over three decades. Carnahan’s tenure is not just a testament to her professional expertise but also a celebration of her profound dedication to fostering a better future for children and families, both locally and globally. 

These testimonials serve as a testament to Dr. Carnahan’s enduring legacy as she embarks on the next chapter of her journey. Her unwavering dedication to education, advocacy, and community engagement will be cherished and remembered by all who had the privilege of knowing her. 

As Carnahan prepares for retirement, she leaves behind a legacy of persistence and dedication to early childhood education. “Dreams need someone who will keep kicking the soccer ball until it actually goes to the goal,” she remarks, reflecting on the decades-long journey to establish and nurture the Hume House. 

Photo courtesy of Sharon Carnahan

Looking ahead, the center remains committed to its mission of providing high-quality education and research opportunities while fostering community understanding of best practices in child development. With new leadership on the horizon, including longtime staff member, Alice Davidson, stepping in as executive director, the Hume House is poised to continue its legacy of excellence for generations to come. Additionally, Diane Doyle, director of the Child Development Center, has worked closely with Dr. Carnahan, and she will continue the innovative curriculum for the Hume House program. 

Beyond her retirement, Carnahan plans to share her expertise globally, working as a consultant to train teachers in other countries and volunteering for local educational initiatives. Her dedication to improving early childhood education underscores the enduring impact of the Hume House and its commitment to shaping future leaders in the field. 

As the Rollins College Child Development Center celebrates its 50th anniversary and bids farewell to a visionary leader, it reaffirms its commitment to fostering a nurturing environment where children thrive, undergraduates learn, and communities unite in support of early childhood education. 

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