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Alumni's gift founds Yale China Fund for Emotional Intelligence

April 27, 2017
by Rachel Horsting and Bill Hathaway

A $3 million gift from two Yale alumni will help establish the Yale China Fund for Emotional Intelligence, which will assist Chinese educators to incorporate principles of emotional intelligence into programs for children 3 to 6 years old.

The effort will be spearheaded by Yale Child Study Center researchers Marc Brackett, Dena Simmons, Walter Gilliam, and Tong Liu and will feature implementation of RULER, an innovative program created at Yale that helps teachers and students incorporate concepts of emotional regulation in the classroom.

The Child Study Center researchers come from two programs within the Center, each bringing a particular expertise to the Fund. The Yale-China Program on Child Development has been partnering with schools in China for over six years, both travelling there to work with teachers and inviting Chinese teachers to the US to provide input on their needs and the needs of their students. RULER has been shown to improve student performance and educational experience, and is well suited for adoption across cultures.

Yale-China Program, A Foundational Partnership

Tong Liu, PhD, Executive Director of the Yale-China Program and Principal Investigator for this project, has been preparing for this initiative for a long time. “RULER is like a seed, a very healthy seed,” Liu said, “and the Yale-China program is the rich soil for this seed.”

Liu has published on RULER in top Chinese journals on early education. She has already led the localization and implementation of other American curricula in China, during which she formed close partnerships with Chinese researchers at Beijing Normal University, which has the highest rated programs in psychology and education in China. This has generated interest in emotional intelligence, and RULER in particular. “Parents started to realize the importance of emotional intelligence, but how to make this happen? We can,” Liu said.

RULER and Cultural Adaptation

The RULER team, the other contributing project within the Center, will provide materials and train Chinese teachers. The Yale-China Program will localize – Liu’s term for the process of translating not just the language but also the cultural aspects of educational approaches – RULER and continue partnering with Chinese researchers to study the implementation and effectiveness.

RULER is an approach to social and emotional learning that is well suited to cultural adaptation, said Dena Simmons, Director of Education at Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, because it is fundamentally student-centered.

“We invite students to try our tools to manage their emotions, but we don’t impose any particular emotion management strategy. This invitation makes space for cultural adaptation because it welcomes what students bring in with them,” said Simmons.

Additionally, RULER is implemented by training adults, which means the teachers use the tools in their classroom based on their knowledge of what their students need. Simmons emphasized, “RULER allows educators to have the agency to make it their own.”

Emotional Intelligence – Yale Grown

The field of emotional intelligence is anchored in the seminal work of Yale President Peter Salovey and fellow psychologist John D. Mayer. Their research became the basis of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

"When I articulated the concept of emotional intelligence in 1990, I could not predict the impact that it would have and how it would resonate throughout the world,” said Salovey. “I am very proud that the idea has taken root in China. With the establishment of the new Yale

China Fund for Emotional Intelligence as a focal point for pioneering research and programs, I hope that future generations in China will have more opportunities to cultivate the emotional skills that they need to succeed in life."

Yale Center Beijing

The Fund will be operated at the Yale Center Beijing (YCB), Yale's first university-wide center outside of the United States, which has hosted more than 300 programs and facilitated 100 collaborations among Yale and its Chinese partners. The benefactors are Yale School of Management (SOM) graduates Neil Shen ’92 M.A., chair of the executive council of Yale Center Beijing and Founding and Managing Partner of Sequoia Capital China, and Liang (Leon) Meng ’97 M.P.P.M., Yale SOM Donaldson Fellow and founding managing partner of Ascendent Capital, who will serve as the program’s advisory committee chair and vice chair.

“Similar to Yale Center Beijing, the Yale China Fund for Emotional Intelligence is a ‘startup’ that is geared towards educating future leaders and improving the world as a whole. I hope that the Yale China Fund for Emotional Intelligence will be well received broadly as we better prepare China's future leaders for an impactful and meaningful life, and promote further academic and cultural exchanges between China and beyond." Shen said.

"After decades of investing in and working with Chinese institutions, I have come to the conclusion that children in China will benefit tremendously from emotional intelligence training at an early age. Our children excel in IQ, and we want to make sure they have the skills to excel in EQ as well. After learning about the RULER program at Yale's Center for Emotional Intelligence, I became convinced that it would be beneficial to introduce in China. As a Yale alumnus, I am deeply honored to initiate the program and co-sponsor the fund. We look forward to leveraging Yale's deep knowledge and experience in the field, and hope this initiative makes an enduring impact in China.” Meng said.

Submitted by Rachel Horsting on April 27, 2017