Photo of Dawn sitting with two children on a classroom floor, with everyone is wearing masks

Dawn Hays

Director – University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Campus Child Center

I have been working in the field of early care and education since I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1991 with a degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. My goal when I graduated was to become a kindergarten teacher, but once I joined the team at Campus Child Center in the fall of 1992, there was no turning back. I knew I had found the place where I could have a great impact on children and their families at a pivotal age in their development. I began as a float teacher, then the lead teacher of the two-year-old classroom and became the director in July 2016.

Campus Child Center serves children of UW-La Crosse (UWL) students, staff, faculty, and alumni, providing nationally accredited care and education to children ages one through five. We also have the privilege of working alongside UWL students who work as teacher assistants in our program. I have had the opportunity to serve on the board of directors for the Great River Chapter of WECA, as a board member of the Wisconsin Child Care Administrator Association, and as a member of the Early Childhood-Middle Childhood Advisory Board at UWL.

One of things that has brought me a great deal of joy in my work at Campus Child Center was to initiate intergenerational programming where we were able to “adopt” center grandparents in the mid-1990s, and they remained an integral part of our program until they retired in 2016. Their photo hangs in my office to this day. While COVID has brought a stop to visitors in our center, the former director and retired lead teacher have served as our grandparents since 2016.

The relationships I have been able to build at Campus Child Center over the past 28+ years sustain me. They are truly the highlight of the work I do to help children and families succeed, no matter what challenges each day may bring. I have been blessed to work with a dynamic group of individuals at Campus Child Center who understand the value of working together to meet the needs of the children and families we serve. We each have unique strengths and can fully capitalize on them to have a well-rounded team. The 6 professional staff members have a combined total of over 115 years of service at Campus Child Center.

I would love to see the field of early care and education be more financially supported by legislation because of the significant impact we make on the day-to-day lives of children and families. In addition, I hope that one day educators in the field of early care and education are valued for the significant roles we play in providing a foundation for children and families.