For pioneer in social and emotional learning, collaboration is key

Roger Weissberg

When he joined UIC, “I felt like there was a university commitment to making urban life better,” says Roger Weissberg. Photo: Jenny Fontaine


The UIC Distinguished Professorship recognizes scholarship, creativity and leadership. 

Roger Weissberg is going to need a bigger business card. Besides UIC distinguished professor, his other campus titles include NoVo Foundation endowed chair in social and emotional learning, and distinguished professor of liberal arts and sciences.

Weissberg is also vice chair of the board of directors and chief knowledge officer for the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), a nonprofit organization focused on the evidence-based advancement of SEL. He’s held a leadership post with the group for over 20 years.

“To have faculty members who have received this award before as the committee that selects me, there’s no greater honor,” says Weissberg, professor of psychology and education.

Weissberg is a pioneer in the field of SEL, a term he and collaborators introduced in a 1997 publication. He is a nationally respected advocate of incorporating SEL into the curriculum from preschool through high school.

The advancement and acceptance of SEL-based programs, both nationally and locally, has grown thanks in part to his three decades of evidence-based research that indicates SEL programs can raise standardized test scores, build students’ attachment to school, improve interpersonal attitudes and decrease problem behaviors.

At UIC, he heads the SEL Research Group, which directs projects in assessment, practice, educator preparation and policy development. Weissberg has trained scholars and practitioners in innovative interventions and produced more than 200 publications focusing on preventive strategies.

In 2015, he’ll release his latest publication – a collaboratively produced 37-chapter, social and emotional learning handbook, featuring leaders in the field writing on issues of research, practice and policy.

Whether it’s working with researchers, teachers, principals or parents, collaboration is a consistent theme over Weissberg’s career.

“One of the lessons is, if you’re going to do practice work, you don’t do the work in the university and then go to the practitioner,” he explains. “You start right away with the collaboration, with the end in mind.”

“For us, the end in mind is helping educators promote the social, emotional and academic learning of all children and to document the impact of programming with assessment strategies that are scientifically sound, feasible to administer, score and understand and actionable.”

Since he joined UIC in 1992, Weissberg has been impressed by its urban mission. “I felt like there was a university commitment to making urban life better, so that’s been powerful,” he says.

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