Top SEL expert named NoVo Foundation Endowed Chair at UIC

One of North America’s top applied developmental psychologists and a renowned expert in the area of social and emotional learning, or SEL, will be the next NoVo Foundation Endowed Chair of Social and Emotional Learning at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Kimberly Schonert-Reichl
Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, NoVo Foundation Endowed Chair of Social and Emotional Learning at UIC.

Pending approval of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, who is currently at the University of British Columbia, will be appointed to the chair at UIC and start in January 2021.

Schonert-Reichl is professor in the human development, learning and culture area in the department of educational and counseling psychology and special education at UBC. She recently completed a five-year appointment as the director of the Human Early Learning Partnership, an interdisciplinary research institute focused on child development in the School of Population and Public Health in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC.

She has conducted more than two decades of research with children and adolescents, particularly in relation to the identification of the processes and mechanisms that foster positive human qualities such as empathy, compassion, altruism and resiliency.

Her projects include studies examining the effectiveness of classroom-based universal SEL programs, such as the MindUp, Roots of Empathy and the Kindness in the Classroom program. She also is conducting interdisciplinary research in collaboration with neuroscientists and psychobiologists examining the relation of executive functions and biological processes, including stress physiology and social epigenetics, to children’s social and emotional development in school settings.

Most recently, she has led the development and implementation of the Middle Years Development Instrument, or MDI, a child self-report population-based measure of children’s SEL, physical health, well-being, and developmental assets inside and outside of school. The MDI has been administered to over 300,000 children worldwide.

“I am delighted that Professor Schonert-Reichl is joining the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as the next NoVo Foundation Endowed Chair of Social and Emotional Learning,” said Astrida Orle Tantillo, dean of the college. “We remain grateful for the NoVo Foundation’s generous endowment, which allows us to build upon our strong legacy of leadership in this timely and critically important area of scholarship.”

The move to UIC marks a homecoming to the Chicago area for Schonert-Reichl, a native of Northlake and graduate of West Leyden High School, who, early in her career, was a middle school teacher in Oak Park and a language arts teacher at an alternative high school in Downers Grove.

“It is truly such an honor for me to take on this new role as the NoVo Foundation Endowed Chair in SEL, and to join such an amazing group of faculty and students at UIC — a world-class university,” Schonert-Reichl said. “And, it is particularly meaningful to me to be returning to Chicago, where my interest and passion for SEL all began as a teacher. Indeed, it was during my years as a new teacher that my students taught me that the best learning happens when explicit attention is given to creating educational contexts that support and promote their social and emotional competence and well-being. I am looking forward to continuing my research on SEL by working collaboratively with researchers, students and practitioners to make new discoveries that will advance both the science and practice of SEL.”

She has received multiple awards and honors for her research and teaching, including the Confederation of University Faculty Associations BC’s Paz Buttedahl Career Achievement Award, which is the association’s highest honor and recognizes an individual for sustained outstanding contributions to the community beyond the academy through research or other scholarly activities over the major portion of the recipient’s career, and the Joseph E. Zins Distinguished Scholar Award for outstanding research on SEL. She is a fellow of the Mind and Life Institute and a fellow of the Botin Foundation’s Platform for Innovation in Education.

Roger Weissberg
Roger Weissberg, UIC distinguished professor emeritus of psychology. Photo: Jenny Fontaine

Schonert-Reichl will be the second scholar to occupy the NoVo Foundation Endowed Chair of Social and Emotional Learning at UIC. She follows SEL pioneer and researcher Roger Weissberg, UIC distinguished professor emeritus of psychology, who held the post since 2011 when the foundation made a $2 million donation to the UIC College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to create the post and support ongoing SEL research at the university.

“Kim is an internationally renowned scholar whose groundbreaking work and collaborations have advanced social and emotional learning research, evidence-based practice and public policy for decades. It is very exciting that she is coming to UIC, where she will provide quality training and mentorship to future leaders in the field of SEL science and education,” said Weissberg, who also is chief knowledge officer and board vice chair at the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.

The department of psychology at UIC long has been recognized as a world leader in SEL research that had its beginnings with the arrival of Weissberg, whose work has led to standard educational practices that promote the healthy development of children and adolescents. The international acceptance of SEL practices emerged from Weissberg’s early groundbreaking work while at UIC and captured in his book, “Promoting Social and Emotional Learning: Guidelines for Educators.”

Schonert-Reichl’s scholarship and status as a top international scholar provides the department the opportunity to build on Weissberg’s legacy and the foundation he helped establish at UIC in the years ahead, according to Michael Ragozzino, UIC professor and head of psychology

“She brings an innovative and unique approach to SEL research that includes understanding how neurobiological processes relate to social and emotional development in children,” he said. “The department is ecstatic to have her join our faculty.”

Schonert-Reichl earned her master’s degree in educational psychology from the University of Chicago and her Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Iowa. She received a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Illinois State University.

Established in 2008, the NoVo Foundation supports initiatives that promote a holistic, interconnected and healing vision for humanity.

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