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Committee for Children Executive Director Honored with Prestigious Award


CONTACT: Shauna McBride,, 206.612.8718


Joan Cole Duffell Receives Mary Utne O’Brien Award for Work in Social-Emotional Learning

Seattle—Joan Cole Duffell, executive director of Committee for Children (CFC), the global leader in research-based social-emotional learning (SEL) education, has received the Mary Utne O’Brien Award for Excellence in Expanding the Evidence-Based Practice of Social and Emotional Learning from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). CASEL established the award to honor the memory of Mary Utne O’Brien, who served as the vice president of strategic initiatives before passing away in April of 2010 after a battle with cancer. CASEL annually honors awardees for their work in either the fields of educational practice or public policy.

“The C in CASEL stands for collaboration, and Joan exemplifies the values of collaboration—generous, tireless, and wise. The field of social and emotional learning has benefitted from her leadership for many years,” said Roger P. Weissberg, chief knowledge officer and board vice chair of CASEL.

Mary Utne O’Brien AwardDuffell was honored at the CASEL 2018 Cross-Districts Learning Event dinner held on Monday, April 30, at the Chicago Cultural Center. She received the O’Brien award alongside Tom Roderick, executive director of the Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility in New York City, and Michelle Van Allen, who was principal of Chicago’s Marcus Garvey Elementary School until her sudden death earlier this year.

Duffell is a lifelong community activist who has been committed to improving the lives of children for over 35 years. Following a storied career teaching in a therapeutic program for abused children, she joined Committee for Children, and led US marketing and outreach efforts from 1983 to 2002. During this time, she developed partnerships with organizations across the US, Europe, Asia, and Latin America in order to bring culturally adapted editions of the Second Step Program, CFC’s flagship curriculum, to children and families across the globe. Under Duffell’s leadership, CFC has become the global leader of research-based educational programs that promote social-emotional skills and prevent bullying and sexual abuse.

“It has been a pleasure to work alongside Joan,” said John Hults, CFC’s chief operating officer. “Even after 35 years, she still possesses the same passion for achieving the mission this organization was founded on—to foster the safety and well-being of children through social-emotional learning and development.”

Each year at the Cross-Districts Learning Event, CASEL convenes leaders from the field to share knowledge and advance SEL in communities, districts, schools, and classrooms across the country. This year’s theme was “SEL as an Ecosystem: Building a Supportive School Community Through Practice, Policy, and Partnership”, and highlighted the many interconnected facets of SEL in a school and district–from the efforts of teachers and students to counselors and community-based organizations–to best support the whole child. The three-day conference included a variety of discussions and sessions addressing a variety of topics related to SEL.

The selection committee for the 2018 Mary Utne O’Brien Awards included the CASEL Board of Directors (Larry Aber, Steve Arnold, Catherine Bradshaw, Linda Darling-Hammond, Deborah Delisle, Paul Goren, Mark Greenberg, Ann Nerad, Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, Tim Shriver, Roger Weissberg, and Andrea Wishom) and the following members of CASEL’s leadership group: Karen Niemi and Melissa Schlinger.

About Committee for Children

Founded in 1979, Committee for Children is a global nonprofit dedicated to helping children everywhere thrive emotionally, socially, and academically. Committee for Children is the world’s largest provider of research-based educational programs that promote social-emotional skills and prevent bullying and sexual abuse. Committee for Children works with educators, parents, policy makers, and partner organizations to deliver programs, advocate for public policies, and provide leadership in the field. Today the organization’s curricula reach schools in more than 70 countries, including 30% of all U.S. elementary schools. Learn more at

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