Joan Ershler, PhD, longtime Waisman Early Childhood Program (WECP) director retires

Joan ErshlerAfter 27 years as the director of the Waisman Early Childhood Program (WECP), Joan Ershler, PhD, retired in early September 2019. The WECP is a model inclusive early childhood program with a developmentally diverse enrollment serving children with special needs alongside their typically developing peers. Under her leadership, the program grew substantially. The number of children served increased from 50 to 80 and the staff doubled in size. Ershler was also integral to the expansion of the WECP Scholarship Fund. The fund enables families and children in need greater access to the program through support for tuition and therapeutic services.

Ershler was committed to providing high quality early childhood education. The WECP is the only UW-Madison early childhood program accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. The WECP has an outstanding reputation that extends well beyond UW-Madison to the entire greater Madison community. Given Ershler’s extensive knowledge regarding early childhood education and inclusivity, she was sought after by many UW-Madison departments, as well as UW-Whitewater, Edgewood College, and Madison College, to develop training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students.  Ershler was not only a valuable resource for a range of early childhood issues on campus but she also served on the board of directors for the Madison Children’s Museum.

“Joan demonstrated dedication and commitment to the success of the WECP.  She was a thoughtful, compassionate administrator, a tireless advocate for inclusive early childhood education, and a valuable ambassador for the Waisman Center in the university community and beyond,” said William MacLean, PhD, then director of the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at the Waisman Center. The UCEDD oversees the WECP.  “Thank you for your many years of service. The WECP has flourished under your leadership. I hope that during your retirement you will take time to celebrate the impact you have had on the lives of so many children and their families.”

If you would like to honor Joan, please consider making a gift to the WECP Scholarship Fund at