Eastern Washington University psychology professor Susan Ruby is on a mission to designate Eastern as the leader in Social Emotional Learning (SEL) training for the region. Last fall, the EWU Foundation awarded Ruby a grant to help make it happen.

According to the Chicago-based Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, SEL is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Ruby says the state of Washington will require SEL in schools in the near future. She wants to develop a transformative SEL program at EWU that would help the university become a leader in SEL training for area elementary and secondary schools.

“This project seeks to jump-start SEL implementation in Eastern Washington K-12 schools and higher education by informing EWU faculty, students and surrounding school districts on the importance of SEL,” Ruby says.

Susan Ruby (left) and R. Keeth Matheny (right)

The Foundation Grant award allowed Ruby to invite R. Keeth Matheny—aka, Coach Rudy, a charismatic, award-winning teacher, speaker and consultant—to EWU to give a presentation and work with educators. During his visit in early January, Matheny spoke to more than 70 EWU faculty members, advisors and educators; he worked with 25 faculty members at the Faculty Commons; and he met with educators and administrators at the Northeast Washington Educational Service District (NEW ESD) 101, the Cheney School District and the Freeman School District.

Matheny’s style is interactive. Presentation attendees take part in ice-breakers, discussions and games to practice what they’ve learned. Ruby says Whitworth has already reached out to collaborate with EWU, Gonzaga and WSU to consider bringing Matheny back for future training.

Ruby says she will infuse the SEL knowledge and skills learned in the recent training across the graduate programming in the EWU School of Psychology, and that she has submitted a proposal for a “first-year experience” course involving SEL, Growth Mindset (Dweck, 2007) and Emotional Intelligence (Goleman, 1995). She also plans to seek future funding opportunities to develop curricula for students to use in field experiences.

“My hope is that both EWU and local schools will continue to invest in SEL curriculum to scale up implementation,” she says.

The EWU Foundation Grant Program is made possible by the financial support of EWU donors. The Foundation seeks innovative proposals from faculty and staff that will enhance the university and its mission, support the university’s strategic plan, provide opportunities for development and research, as well as increase student participation. Since 2010, the Eastern Washington University Foundation has awarded more than $325,000 in grants to faculty and staff impacting student success.