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Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life

Initiative on Social-Emotional Learning and Civic Engagement

Social-Emotional Learning Initiative

Overview

Social-emotional learning involves developing the skills needed to recognize and manage emotions, handle conflict constructively, establish positive relationships guided by empathy, engage in perspective-taking, make responsible decisions, and handle challenging situations effectively. As part of a growing recognition of the importance of these skills for a young person’s educational development and lifelong wellbeing, the Tisch College Initiative on Social-Emotional Learning and Civic Engagement (SEL-CE) seeks to further integrate them into educational practices, campus programs, and research throughout Tufts University, with a special focus on its connections to student engagement in civic life.

The SEL-CE initiative has three primary and interconnected goals:

  • To help all Tufts students, at every level and on every campus, to develop their social-emotional skills through civic engagement experiences in the classroom and beyond
  • To encourage and prepare faculty members to incorporate aspects of social-emotional learning in their teaching and research, in order to give SEL a more central role in the Tufts educational experience
  • To generate new knowledge in this field to benefit not only Tufts students and faculty, but also other institutions that seek to strengthen their commitment to SEL and civic engagement

The Social-Emotional Learning and Civic Engagement initiative also focuses on diversity and inclusion, with special attention to how multiple, diverse identities (e.g. race, socioeconomic status, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc.) interact and affect the experiences and wellbeing of Tufts students, faculty, and staff.

The initiative was launched in early 2017 thanks to a generous gift from David T. Zussman, A53, J80P, and his family through the Zussman Fund for Social and Emotional Learning. In addition, The Omidyar Group has provided Tisch College with a $15,000 planning grant to create a 5-year strategic business plan for the initiative, with the goal of maintaining an evolving and financially sustainable program.

The SEL-CE initiative is led by Associate Director Deborah Donahue-Keegan, who is a Lecturer in the Tufts Department of Education. Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Director of Tisch College's CIRCLE, is also centrally involved, offering her strong expertise at the intersection of civic engagement and SEL research, theory, and practice. Nick Woolf, a current M.A. student in Tufts' Department of Child Study and Human Development, supports the initiative as a Graduate Assistant. Peter Levine, Tisch College's Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, and Diane Ryan, Tisch College's Associate Dean for Programs and Administration, jointly oversee the work of the initiative.

Faculty Development

One of the the initiative’s primary activities is a year-long faculty development program, offered in partnership with the Tufts Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT) that aims to help Tufts faculty develop: 1) a deep understanding of the vital role of social-emotional learning to cultural competence and civic engagement; 2) a strong commitment to integrate SEL into their Tufts courses; and 3) the social-emotional skills needed to efficaciously engage in and promote constructive dialogue with students and colleagues, both for faculty members' professional development and for the benefit of student learning in the classroom. Read more about the program.

Recent Events and Programs

Speaker and participants at Inclusive Excellence workshop

During the 2018-19 academic year, we continued our work to integrate social-emotional learning and civic engagement across Tufts University—to advance equity, inclusive excellence, and well-being. In addition to the yearlong faculty development program, we offered numerous other programs. Below are some highlights from the past year:

  • In May 2019, we co-sponsored (with the Office of the Tufts University Provost, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and Tufts Department of Public and Environmental Safety) a workshop for Tufts’ institutional leaders: Making Excellence Inclusive in Challenging Times: Implications for Institution Transformation and Well-Being. The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Frank Tuitt who emphasized the importance of recognizing and attending to the social-emotional  dimensions of inclusive excellence. At the end of the workshop participants identified actionable ways that they (individually and collectively) can engage in continued dialogue/work to advance equity, well-being, and inclusive excellence at Tufts.
  • Social-emotional learning workshop led by Dr. Karen CraddockWe designed and hosted a three-part workshop series (from November 2018 to March 2019): Fostering Emotional Intelligence for Inclusive Excellence at Tufts. The workshops focused on the theory/practice of and intersections between emotional intelligence, social-emotional development, equity, and inclusion across multiple contexts. The series was designed for Tufts administrators, faculty, and staff in leadership positions across the university. The first workshop was facilitated by Dr. Robin Stern and Christina Bradley of  the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence; the second and third workshops were facilitated by Dr. Karen Craddock.
  • During the Spring 2019 semester, the initiative offered an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course for a dozen Tufts faculty members from across the university; it was taught by certified MBSR instructor, Ashley Norwood.
  • Deborah Donahue-Keegan and Sara Folta, member of the first Tisch SEL-CE Faculty Fellows cohort (and inaugural recipient of the Friedman School's Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year Award, May 2019) co-facilitated a workshop titled, Taking “Time for Pause” in the Classroom as a Gateway to Inclusive Excellence, at the May 2019 University-Wide Teaching Conference, organized and hosted by Tufts Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT).A conversation hosted by the initiative.
  • The initiative offered workshops for curricular and co-curricular groups of Tufts students (e.g., MAT in Art Education SMFA students, Mechanical Engineering Learning Assistants, STEM Ambassadors).
  • The initiative co-developed and co-sponsored several campus workshops and events during the 2018-19 academic year, including a public lecture by Robin DiAngelo and Jack Hill, "Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism," as well as a pre-lecture faculty workshop and a follow-up dialogue featuring Hill.
  • In June 2018, Deborah Donahue-Keegan and Tisch College’s CIRCLE Director, Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, alongside Tufts undergraduates Alex Fognani and Alissa Hansford, presented at the Equity Through SEL Summit in Austin, TX. Donahue-Keegan also delivered a “Spark-Plug Talk” at the summit's opening session.
  • In March 2018, Deborah Donahue-Keegan represented the Tisch SEL-CE Initiative at the Milken Institute’s Center for Strategic Philanthropy thought leaders retreat, Promoting Thriving in U.S. Higher Education. She served as a discussant for the panel “Higher Education’s Role in Developing Emotional Intelligence”

Past Activities

Participants at a mindfulness workshop for student groupsIn its inaugural 2017-2018 academic year, the Tisch SEL-CE initiative both convened and participated in several conferences, institutes, dialogues, and panels relevant to our mission of promoting and facilitating social-emotional learning at Tufts and in higher education more broadly. These included:

  • A panel on “Civic Engagement, Intersectionality & Well-Being in Higher Education: The Vital Role of Social-Emotional Learning/Development,” at the the 2017 Bringing Theory to Practice Conference
  • A workshop titled “Fostering Intellectual Agility and Constructive Dialogue in the Higher Education Classroom: The Vital Role of Contemplative Pedagogy,” at the Mindfulness in Education (MiEN) annual conference, held at Tufts and co-sponsored by our initiative.
  • Participation in a yearlong teacher institute on Social-Emotional Development and Culturally Responsive Teaching from the Center for Reaching & Teaching the Whole Child.
  • Other dialogues, workshops, and panels in the Tufts community, including conversations focused on DACA students, racial literacy, and more.

Looking Forward

In the coming year, the Tisch SEL-CE will continue to develop and offer the year-long faculty fellows program, along with programs for Tufts staff and senior administrators. We will also develop and offer, with input from the Tisch SEL-CE Student Advisory Committee, a wide array of SEL-CE programs for Tufts students (undergraduate and graduate), as well as an interdisciplinary course for first-year undergraduates. We will incorporate the Reflective Structured Dialogue method, developed by Essential Partners, and mindfulness practices, in many of our programs for students, faculty, and staff.

Over the next five years, the Tisch SEL-CE Initiative will focus on developing and establishing an evidence-based model for SEL-CE at Tufts University with mission-focused fidelity. In addition to continuing the above-described activities, we plan to share our Social-Emotional Learning and Civic Engagement model with partner and client higher education institutions through publications, conferences, training, and consulting. Our plans for future activities may adapt based on what we learn through our SEL-CE initiative at Tufts over the next year, and through collaboration with other colleges/universities. Given the ever-changing higher education landscape, we know that it is important to be flexible in our execution strategy while anchored to our values, mission, and goals.

For more information about the Tisch SEL-CE initiative, email, Deborah Donahue-Keegan, Associate Director, at deborah.donahue_keegan@tufts.edu. You can also follow the initiative's work on Facebook.