Jennifer Grisham: 2024-25 University Research Professor Q&A

Jennifer Grisham, Ed.D.
Jennifer Grisham, Ed.D., studies authentic assessment, tiered instruction and inclusion of children with disabilities in preschool settings. Jeremy Blackburn | UK Research Communications

UKNow is highlighting the University of Kentucky’s 2024-25 University Research Professors. Established by the Board of Trustees in 1976, the professorship program recognizes excellence across the full spectrum of research at UK and is sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research.  

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 9, 2024) — Jennifer Grisham, Ed.D., professor in the Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education program and faculty director of the Early Childhood Laboratory in the University of Kentucky College of Education has been honored as a 2024-25 University Research Professor.

Since joining UK in 1995, Grisham has worked to improve outcomes for young children with disabilities and their families. Her work focuses on authentic assessment strategies, multitiered systems of support for differentiating instruction, and individualized instruction to children with disabilities in everyday activities and routines. Grisham has generated $15 million in federal funding and $11 million in state funding to support her research and graduate student education.

Since 2009, Grisham has supported research and education abroad experiences in Guatemala. She is cofounder of a children’s home and preschool program in Guatemala City called Hope for Tomorrow.

Grisham spoke with UKNow about her latest honor as a University Research Professor in this Q&A.

UKNow: What does it mean to you to be recognized as a University Research Professor? 

Grisham: Because of UK’s R1 status, I am very honored to be recognized in this manner. In the College of Education, there are many productive researchers and so I am humbled that I was chosen from among them. The financial award will allow me to conduct a project that will further my research agenda.

UKNow: How will the professorships program advance your research?

Grisham: I co-authored an assessment and curriculum system and have been investigating its validity, usability and capacity to improve outcomes for young children. The professorship will allow me to bring together U.S. and international researchers who are interested in advancing this work in other locations.

UKNow: How does your research address challenges facing Kentucky?

Grisham: There is an increase in the number of young children who are diagnosed with developmental delays. This is due to several factors including the high rate of children born addicted to drugs, trauma associated with substance use disorders and high rates of poverty in our state. Kentucky is faced with challenges in how to support children with developmental delays in inclusive early childhood settings. The research that I conduct is intended to address the myriad of challenges that Kentucky’s early childhood teachers face in supporting young children with diverse learning needs in their classrooms.

UKNow: What impact will your research have on Kentucky?

Grisham: I hope that my research will result in more inclusive early childhood practices in Kentucky. My research aims to assist teachers in including children with developmental delays in preschool settings.


About the University Research Professors
Each year, the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees approves a cohort of faculty as University Research Professors. The distinction recognizes excellence in work that addresses scientific, social, cultural and economic challenges in Kentucky and the world.

College leadership developed criteria for excellence within their area of expertise and then nominated faculty who excelled at these criteria. Each University Research Professor receives a one-year award of $10,000 and participates in other events planned around the program.


As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.