When Karen Harrington was a high school student considering her future, her school counselor tried to dissuade her from going to college by telling her that, with her strong typing skills, she should be a secretary. She went anyway — the first in her family to go to college — and became a school counselor. Increasingly interested in social and emotional learning, she turned toward educational research and evaluation. Today Harrington is a national expert on career development and curriculum design for marginalized youth, such as those who are involved with gangs, have dropped out of high-school or are incarcerated. The Mount Holyoke course she designed on social and emotional factors in academic achievement is one of only a couple of courses on the topic in the country. Harrington is a senior research fellow and assistant director at the Center for Youth Engagement at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
“Mount Holyoke is at the forefront by offering a course for teachers that builds their capacity to teach students the social and emotional skills they need to be successful in school, in the workplace and in relationships,” Harrington said. “This is a whole approach to learning. It’s essential, when you talk about school climate and culture, that students feel safe and feel connected to teachers and to one another.”