UL Lafayette names new leaders of Picard Center

A statue of Cecil Picard, a deceased educator and former Louisiana state superintendent of education, sits in front of the Cecil J. Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning in Lafayette. (Photo: Advertiser file photo)

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has appointed an executive director and a director of research for the Cecil J. Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning.

Dr. Karen Burstein has been named executive director; Dr. Paula Zeanah has been appointed director of research.

“We address where early childhood fits into the well-being of Louisiana citizens. Through our research, we want to increase knowledge that leads to the development of the whole child and families,” said Burstein, who started working at the university July 1. “We are committed to lifelong learning.”

Before joining the Picard Center, Burstein was director and senior scientist at the Southwest Institute for Families and Children in Phoenix. She was a research professor at Arizona State University and director of the ASU Learning and Diagnostic Evaluation Clinic.

“Dr. Burstein is a highly regarded scholar and has a deep background in serving communities through proven scientific models, research, and evaluation. Her talent for growing organizations will strengthen the Picard Center’s impact on Louisiana’s communities, as well as its role as a resource for faculty and students. Anyone who meets her will experience the energy and compassion she has for her work,” said UL President Joseph Savoie.

For the past 20 years, Burstein has conducted a series of related studies on child and family access to equitable health care and education. She also conducted numerous large-scale community needs assessments and evaluation studies of early education. She has worked extensively with families and children in culturally diverse rural communities, including American Indians and Latinos from Central and South America.

Burstein’s research interests include early language development, curriculum-based assessments of early literacy skills, evaluation of models of early childhood professional development, and community-based participatory research.

She holds the Loyd J. Rockhold Endowed Chair of Early Childhood at UL.

Dr. Paula Zeanah, director of research at the Picard Center, facilitates and promotes research within the center, in the College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions, and across the university. She also holds the Lafayette General Medical Center/Our Lady of the Lake Endowed Nursing Chair.

A clinical psychologist and registered nurse, Zeanah was a professor at the Tulane University School of Medicine and served as chief of the Psychology Division within the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. She was a supervisor for the Pediatric Psychiatry Consultation-Liaison service at Tulane Hospital.

Zeanah served as director of Infant Mental Health and was clinical developer for Louisiana’s Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visitation program through the Louisiana Office of Public Health, Bureau of Family Health. Her research interests relate to nurse home visiting, chronic illness in childhood, and professional development.

The Picard Center is composed of a multidisciplinary group of evaluation and research professionals who focus on early childhood, K-12 education, school-based health, poverty’s effects on families, and lifelong learning.  It houses the Picard Child and Family Resource Center, home of the Papa Rock Readers’ Project, a laboratory for child development. It also contains a large database related to the criminal justice system.

The Picard Center opened in University Research Park in 2011.

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