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Our Team

Current Members Heading link

Kim headshot

Dr. Kimberly A. Schonert-Reichl is the NoVo Foundation Endowed Chair in Social and Emotional Learning and Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. From 1991 to 2020, she was a Professor in the Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology, and Special Education in the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Dr. Schonert-Reichl received her MA in Educational Psychology from the University of Chicago, her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Iowa, and completed her postdoctoral work as a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Fellow in the Clinical Research Training Program in Adolescence at the University of Chicago and the Department of Psychiatry at Northwestern University Medical School. Prior to her graduate work, Dr. Schonert-Reichl worked as middle school teacher and then as a teacher at an alternative high school for adolescents identified as at risk for high school completion. Dr. Schonert-Reichl’s research focuses on identification of the processes that foster positive human qualities such as empathy, compassion, altruism, and resiliency in children and adolescents.

Kim Schonert-Reichl  |  Professor, NoVo Foundation Endowed Chair in Social and Emotional Learning
Josh standing

Josh Lovett is a third-year doctoral student in the psychology program (focus: community and applied developmental psychology). Josh attended Duke University, where he studied psychology and education. Prior to pursuing graduate studies, Josh was a Fulbright Scholar in South Korea, where he spent three years teaching ESL to a wide range of students. He is broadly interested in the social and behavioral contexts of learning, especially in the social-emotional competencies of teachers and how this impacts a variety of factors in the classroom and school ecology. He is also interested in participatory action research and the ways this might be used to create more context-specific social-emotional learning programs. Josh is particularly interested in teaching and pedagogy and wants to explore teaching-oriented careers after completing his PhD. Here is the link to his personal website.

Joshua (Josh) Lovett  |  PhD Student (3rd year) | Lab Coordinator

Kay is a PhD student in the Community and Prevention Research program at The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She earned her B.A. in Psychology from Saint Mary’s College at Notre Dame, with minors in Biology and Justice Education. Prior to starting at UIC, Kay was a Teach For America corps member, where she was a high school special education teacher in The Bronx. While in New York, Kay earned a Masters in the Art of Teaching from Relay Graduate School of Education. Her research interests include mentoring relationships and ways in which trainings for volunteer mentors to ultimately best support their mentees.

Kay Thursby  |  PhD Student (4th Year)
selfie of Jenny with buildings in the back

Dr. M. Jennifer Kitil earned her PhD in Human Development, Learning, and Culture, at the University of British Columbia, under the supervision of Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl. Prior, she earned her BA in Psychology and MPH in Community Health Sciences from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research investigates the efficacy of social and emotional learning programs on the well-being of children and youth in school-based settings. She is particularly interested in the role that mindfulness-based practices can have on neurocognitive and self-regulatory processes in the developmental trajectories of psychological well-being and the cultivation of positive human qualities. In her free time, you can find her wandering amongst structures and amidst the forests.

Jennifer Kitil  |  Postdoctoral Research Associate
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Dr. Denise Buote is a private consultant (Arbor Educational & Clinical Consulting Inc.) who has focused the past 25 years of her work on direct practice as well as research and evaluation. In her direct practice, Denise has worked in the public school system, residential treatment and community settings as a teacher and therapist, supporting a wide range of children and youth with a focus on supporting individuals with mental health challenges. In research and evaluation, Denise has conducted over 100 needs assessments, evaluations and research briefs for numerous schools, non-profit community organizations, and healthcare organizations that aim to provide services and programs that foster the well-being of children, youth and adults. She has taught numerous undergraduate and graduate courses in the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia and has provided numerous workshops and intensive training sessions in Canada and abroad for schools and community organizations in the areas of youth development, educational practices, and evaluation.

Denise Buote  |  Research Associate & SEL Journal Managing Editor
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Suchitra Sarda has over 20 years of leadership experience in K-12, education consultancy, teacher coaching, and growing Compassionate Systems in schools. She has a master’s in International Education Development from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a post-graduate diploma in Business Studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is also a certified master practitioner for the Compassionate Systems Framework and has founded Compassionate Learning Communities (CLC), which supports the development of Compassionate Systems in school systems around the world. At UIC, Suchitra wants to study compassion and mindfulness in education for student well-being and flourishing.
Suchitra Sarda  |  PhD Student (2nd Year)
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Claire Galloway (she/her) is a second-year doctoral student in the Community and Applied Developmental psychology program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She graduated from DePaul University with a Bachelors of Arts in community psychology while researching nervous behavior around police and coping for children in pain. Prior to UIC, she worked for a workforce development non-profit for survivors of human trafficking. Her current research interests include inclusion of disabled and queer students in the classroom.

Claire Galloway  |  PhD Student (2nd Year)
Headshot of Ashley

Ashley Bledsoe is a first year PhD student studying the Community and prevention Research Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has recently graduated from North Central College with her BA in Psychology. At NCC Ashley developed her love of social emotional learning (SEL) as she worked closely
with K-12 teachers in a certificate program as she aided in research and studied authors that focused on teacher burnout, SEL, classroom engagement, and mindfulness. Ashley also presented research at MPA in Chicago, and APLS in Denver, Colorado. She is passionate about the learning experience of minority groups and applying psychological educational theories to their learning experience. Her research interest includes but aren’t limited to SEL work, and student-teacher mindfulness/wellbeing.

Ashley Bledsoe  |  PhD Student (1st Year)
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Pooja Bhanushali is a first year PhD student in the Community and Applied Developmental Psychology program at UIC. She has pursued her Bachelor’s in Psychology from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai and holds a Masters in Counseling Psychology from S.N.D.T University, India. Pooja has been an SEL Fellow at a non-profit organization, Apni Shala Foundation, facilitating SEL workshops for over 250 students from Mumbai Public Schools and their educators and caregivers. Here, she also led an Action Research project, exploring the impact of mindfulness on second graders’ self regulation and empathy skills. Her research interest involves ways in which mindfulness is used as an SEL intervention for specific developmental ages and culturally diverse populations.

Pooja Bhanushali  |  Phd Student (1st Year)
Linyun standing outside posing for a picture

Linyun Fu is a PhD candidate at the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice at the University of Chicago. Her research primarily focuses on the development and evaluation of culturally sensitive, school-based Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) programs for rural Chinese children. Additionally, she explores resilience mechanisms within family, school, community, and policy systems that support vulnerable children. With over six years of experience, Linyun is a community-engaged researcher who has collaborated extensively with an NGO in China to support the development and evaluation of their SEL programs.

Linyun Fu  |  PhD Candidate - University of Chicago
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Phoenix Kask (he/him) is an undergraduate research assistant at the University of Illinois Chicago, studying Psychology with minors in education and instructional design. He is dedicated to enhancing the academic success and well-being of neurodiverse students and those impacted by trauma. Phoenix’s research focuses on trauma-sensitive and neurodiverse-friendly education, examining educators’ roles and the application of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) concepts specifically tailored to support these student groups. He is particularly interested in advancing teacher training programs that effectively implement inclusive and trauma-informed teaching practices. Outside the lab, Phoenix enjoys nature and spending quality time with his pets.

Phoenix Kask  |  Undergraduate Research Assistant
UIC campus with people walking

Aarya is a third year undergraduate at the University of Toronto in Canada. She is majoring in Economics and Political Science. She is interested in developmental economics and understanding how traditional models actually function in the developing world. She is also interested in behavioural economics and the interaction between psychology and economics to further understand humans as decision makers.

Aarya Sarda  |  Undergraduate (University of Toronto)

Former Lab Members Heading link


Dr. Rebecca Baelen’s research focuses on the design, implementation, and testing of school-based mindfulness and social and emotional learning (SEL) programs for teachers and students. Rebecca is currently the Director of Research and Development at the Center for Reaching and Teaching the Whole Child.

Rebecca Baelen  |  Post-doc (2021-2023)
UIC Campus

Aynsley was a post-bac fellow in the SEL Lab. She is now a doctoral student in the Occupational Therapy program at Rush University.

Aynsley Parker  |  Post-bac (2022-2023)