Press Releases

UIC Receives $2M for Chair in Social and Emotional Learning

21 February 2011
BY University of Illinois at Chicago

A $2 million donation to the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Liberal Arts and Sciences from the NoVo Foundation will support ongoing research in social and emotional learning.

The gift from the foundation, led by Jennifer and Peter Buffett, will establish the NoVo Foundation Endowed Chair in Social and Emotional Learning at UIC. Based in the department of psychology, the chair will oversee continuing research on social and emotional learning programs that promote children’s positive behavior and school performance.

Pending approval of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, Roger Weissberg, professor of psychology and education, will be appointed to the chair. Weissberg is president of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, also known as CASEL.

“We hope that people will recognize NoVo’s endowment of the UIC chair as acknowledgment of the importance of the university’s work and contribution to the field of social and emotional learning,” said Jennifer Buffett, president of NoVo.

“UIC can continue to have a strong hand in bringing these crucial, reliable social and emotional learning programs and methods to schools and districts across the U.S., enriching the educational experiences of children at a time when so many American schools are failing kids. We firmly believe that SEL’s benefits lead to much stronger educational achievement, sustained personal development, and healthier school communities.”

Recent research indicates social and emotional learning programs can raise students’ standardized test scores, build attachment to school, improve interpersonal attitudes, and decrease problem behaviors, such as drug use, high-risk sexual behavior and aggression.

“The NoVo Foundation’s contribution will allow the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to continue as a leader in the field of social and emotional learning and to further our mission of making an impact beyond the classroom,” said Astrida Orle Tantillo, interim dean of the UIC College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “We are grateful for their generous support of this important research.”

The college’s department of psychology is already home to the UIC SEL Research Group, which is headed by Weissberg. With scholars in psychology, education, sociology, and public health, the group’s projects address social and emotional learning research and assessment, practice, educator preparation and policy development.

“Social and emotional learning is founded on scholarly research, and its success continues to be validated by a growing body of evidence,” said Weissberg, who is a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences distinguished professor.

“As the NoVo chair, I anticipate further advancement of the work in this field, establishing more school-family-community partnerships, and continuing to help bring these healthy child development practices to more schools across the country.”

Through three decades, Weissberg has become a leader in the campaign to establish social and emotional learning as an essential part of education from preschool through high school. He has trained scholars and practitioners in innovative family, school and community interventions. His work includes more than 200 publications focusing on preventive interventions with children and adolescents.

Under Weissberg’s direction, CASEL has been a leader in efforts to ensure that the social and emotional needs of children are recognized and addressed in schools worldwide. In 2004, Illinois became the first state to adopt K to 12 student learning standards in social and emotional learning.

Weissberg was chosen in 2008 by The George Lucas Educational Foundation for its “Daring Dozen,” which honors those who are reshaping the future of education. He received the American Psychological Association’s 2000 Distinguished Contribution Award for Applications of Psychology to Education and Training, the 2004 Society for Community Research and Action Distinguished Contribution to Theory and Research Award, and the 2010 Nan Tobler Award for the Best Review of Prevention Research from the Society for Prevention Research.

Prior to joining UIC in 1992, Weissberg was a faculty member at Yale University. He earned his doctorate in psychology from the University of Rochester and his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Brandeis University.

Established in 2008, the NoVo Foundation supports initiatives that focus on ending violence against girls and women and promoting gender equity worldwide, empowering adolescent girls in the developing world, and advancing social and emotional learning in the U.S.

With more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is UIC’s largest college. It comprises more than 20 departments and programs offering over 40 undergraduate major fields of specialization, 40 minors, nearly 50 graduate degrees at the master’s and doctoral levels, and almost 1,000 courses. The college features programs in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences.

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