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academic resiliency

Meet one of the nation’s top SEL experts

  • Joanna
  • October 1, 2019

Why do some students succeed in school while others, with seemingly identical life circumstances, wind up dropping out? Why do a small number of people with nothing more than a high school diploma end up as millionaires while others get stuck at poverty wages? What makes a student who struggled in high school more likely to earn a two- or four-college year degree or succeed in a career training program?

There is no one in the world working harder to answer questions like these than Dr. Scott Solberg, a professor in the Department of Counseling Psychology and Applied Human Development at Boston University who is one of the nation’s foremost experts on leveraging the power of social emotional learning for student success.  

Solberg’s research has helped school districts, state education agencies and the U.S. Department of Education develop plans, policies and programs for the assessment of life factors that precede and predict, with remarkable accuracy, student disengagement. 

“We can know up to three years ahead of time who is most likely to become acutely at-risk of dropping out,” Solberg said. “But, of course, it’s not enough to just know. Once we have that information in our hands, we need to use it as a tool for developing and implementing interventions that help opportunity youth change course.”

The intervention program that grew out of Solberg’s research, Graduation Alliance’s ScholarCentric resiliency assessment and curriculum, is based on longitudinal research and has been adopted by school leaders nationwide. 

“There’s no one-size-fits-all protocol for SEL,” Solberg said. “That’s why assessment is so important. It gives us a better view of the self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and decision-making capacity of students as individuals and groups.”

Armed with that information, district administrators, teachers, parents and students themselves can make better decisions about classroom instruction, schoolwide practices and policies, and family and community partnerships, which work as coordinated strategies to support the social emotional skill-building that is so vital to both short- and long-term success.

With a specific focus on providing these core competencies through K-12 career development programs, Solberg has helped urban, suburban and rural school districts across the nation build capacity for serving high-need youth populations through vocational training initiatives. He has also extensively written and spoken on issues including how to boost student performance through the use of individualized learning plans, the need for equity for students with disabilities, the difference between useful and pointless standardized tests, and the importance of providing multiple pathways to a high school diploma.

“I’ve got my hands in a lot of different areas of research,” Solberg said. “The unifying principle is that all of this work is designed to help superintendents, principals, counselors, teachers and parents create the environments necessary to instill students with a sense of support and confidence.” 


ScholarCentric assessments and curriculum interventions grew out of the research conducted by Dr. Scott Solberg at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the 1990s. Dr. Solberg, using the theory and

research tools from counseling psychology, developed an assessment of six social emotional learning skills that together form a model of resiliency. Unlike fixed personality traits, the six dimensions of resiliency that formed the basis of Dr. Solberg’s model are malleable and can be taught. Click here to learn more.