Wayne State University — Director of the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child & Family Development

Applications are invited for the position of Director of the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child & Family Development (MPSI), Wayne State University, beginning Fall, 2021.

About the University
Wayne State University is a premier, public, urban research university located in the heart of Detroit. The 200-acre traditional and high-tech campus is in the heart of Midtown, offering unparalleled access to cultural experiences, community involvement, and corporate career opportunities. Wayne State University is the third largest institution of higher learning in Michigan and the most diverse campus in the state with nearly 27,000 students from every U.S. state and nearly 80 countries. Wayne State is home to 13 colleges offering over 350 degree programs. Additional information about the university can be found at: wayne.edu.

About the Position
The Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute (MPSI), founded in 1920, recently celebrated a century of leadership in the study and practice of Child and Family Development. From opening one of the first nursery schools in the nation to bringing renowned faculty and students to its campus, MPSI has always sought to improve the development, health and well-being of infants, children, youth, young adults, and their families, through research, education, outreach, and the MPSI Early Childhood Center: with 12 faculty, $2.5M in annual research funding, 14 pre-doctoral trainees, and yearly outreach to over two thousand people in community programs. A decade of accelerated growth and accomplishment positions Wayne State University to hire the next Director for the MPSI, launching a new century of achievement and impact. The MPSI website can be found at https://mpsi.wayne.edu/about and its 2017-2022 strategic plan at: https://mpsi.wayne.edu/about/mpsi_2017-2022_strategic_plan.pdf. 2020 Biannual Report: https://mpsi.wayne.edu/about/mpsi-report

Research at MPSI focuses on urban populations who endure community, environmental, biomedical, psychosocial, systemic, and other stressors influenced by the sociocultural context, including but not limited to structural inequality. This work is translated into practice to improve the lives of urban youth and their families. Faculty promote interdisciplinary research in developmental science across Wayne State University – bridging schools, departments, disciplines and individuals – to provide challenging undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral research training in pre-natal, child, adolescent, emerging adulthood, and family development. Faculty, staff, and students also engage the community through public outreach, professional development, scholarship, and educational activities for the common good.

The Director of MPSI will report to the Vice President for Research and will have the following duties:


  • Leadership role in vision, direction, scholarly community, engagement in campus and community partners, and raising national profile of MPSI
  • Provide leadership in fund-development
  • Oversee MPSI’s budget, research infrastructure, and space
  • Provide direction for MPSI’s extensive community engagement programs
  • Provide leadership to MPSI’s interdisciplinary pre-doctoral training program
  • Supervise the Executive Director of the MPSI Early Childhood Center


  • Maintain an active research program, including externally- funded research, that complements the urban interests of MPSI’s faculty and students


  • Support a collaborative and culturally responsive environment for MPSI faculty, students, and community partners
  • Support a culture and climate that actively promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion as necessary components of excellence
  • Provide leadership and mentoring for the MPSI faculty, with an emphasis on expanding sponsored research

Public Profile

  • Serve as the liaison to the MPSI National Steering Committee and the Internal Advisory Board, while supporting and encouraging continuous improvement recommendations
  • Contribute to efforts to enhance the restoration, revitalization and public awareness of the Charles Lang Freer House (a national historic landmark), which houses the Institute faculty
  • Lead efforts for increased, sustained community engagement that is both culturally competent and mutually beneficial for MPSI and the community


  • Work with the Director of the Lifespan Alliance, a partnership with the Institute of Gerontology (IOG), to coordinate programs and resources between MPSI and the IOG
  • Expand partnerships with faculty across the university to enhance Wayne State University’s research in urban child and family development
  • Serve with the Merrill Palmer Skillman Board of Visitors, the chief fund-raising body of the Institute
  • Represent MPSI on university committees

Qualifications for the Position

  • Doctoral degree and faculty appointment in a developmental science field, such as psychology, social work, education, family medicine, obstetrics, public health, or epidemiology.
  • Demonstrated scholarly expertise in an area complementary to current faculty interests
  • Record of quality, impactful, and prolific research, including external funding
  • Demonstration of applicable prior organizational leadership experience and accomplishments
  • Understanding of and demonstrated ability to promote community-engaged and culturally competent research
  • Evidence of and commitment to promoting and sustaining diversity, equity, and inclusion in leadership, teaching, and mentoring
  • Evidence of successful faculty and student mentoring and the ability to promote a collaborative environment
  • Applicable skills relevant to working in an interdisciplinary research context
  • Knowledge of issues relevant to early childhood education

Please submit your letter of application, curriculum vitae, and contact information of four professional references to job posting 045400 via WSU’s Online Hiring System at https://jobs.wayne.edu. The review of applications will begin March 10, 2021, and remain open until filled. For additional information about this opportunity or questions about the application process, please contact Jeffrey Kentor, Search Committee Chair, at: jeffrey.kentor@wayne.edu.

Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer
The Affirmative Action Plans for Minority/Female and Veterans and Individuals with Disabilities is available in their entirety on the OEO website.

Wayne State University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity employer, which complies with all applicable federal and state laws regarding nondiscrimination and affirmative action. Wayne State University is committed to a policy of nondiscrimination and equal opportunity for all persons regardless of race, sex, color, religion, national origin, age, disability or veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by applicable law.

EEO is the Law