Shannon Cotsoradis 1995

  • Director, Policy & Strategy | Buffett Early Childhood Fund
  • B.S., Psychology | Sweet Briar College, 1995
  • M.A., Child Development | Sarah Lawrence College, 1999
  • M.P.A., Public Administration | The University of Kansas, 2001

“My roots as an advocate for children and families were really born at Sweet Briar. I would have described myself as shy and a very much a reluctant leader, and I really found my voice at Sweet Briar and have leveraged that throughout my career. And I have devoted a lot of my professional career to helping other people find their voice.”

Pick up any newspaper and you can read about the problems facing childcare: not enough workers, inadequate pay, and challenges identifying quality programs. Shannon Cotsoradis, class of 1995, is focused on changing that.

As director of policy and strategy at the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, Shannon supports nonprofit organizations in Nebraska and nationally that are working to improve the quality and access to care offered both in homes and at childcare centers. The fund focuses in’s philanthropy on children birth to five, paying particular attention to infants and toddlers, a population often overlooked in public funding.

“If we really want to change the success of children in school, that starts long before they enter a K-12 classroom,” she says. “There are so many opportunities to change the trajectory when children are very young and so many things that go into whether we set the stage for success.”

Shannon majored in psychology at Sweet Briar and went on to earn master’s degrees in child development and public administration. Returning to her native Kansas, she led a children’s advocacy group, promoting issues that ranged from health to education to economic security. “I really developed an affinity for the early education work because I feel you have the greatest opportunity for impact in the first five years of a child’s life,” she says.

At one point, she was among those leading a campaign to reform childcare licensing rules after several children died in care settings. That included working closely with their families to help them advocate for change. “Families very often don’t know how to navigate in that space and how to elevate their voice in a way that’s effective in the policy space, so part of my role was helping those families learn how to lift up their voices in ways that would move that policy forward,” Shannon says.

She moved on to lead a Nebraska nonprofit dedicated to early childhood education and from there to the Buffett fund—essentially shifting from the receiving end of philanthropy to the giving end.

“My roots as an advocate for children and families were really born at Sweet Briar,” she says. “I would have described myself as shy and a very much a reluctant leader, and I really found my voice at Sweet Briar and have leveraged that throughout my career. And I have devoted a lot of my professional career to helping other people find their voice.”