To encourage high professional standards and recognize outstanding achievements in the field of social and emotional learning, CASEL makes annual awards that honor the legacy of two individuals who played leading roles in the early years of CASEL’s development.

Originally the awards were known as the Joseph E. Zins Awards and presented at the CASEL Forum every other year. In 2010, after the death of Mary Utne O’Brien, the awards were made annually and the focus shifted to research for the Zins Awards and practice and policy for the O’Brien Awards. 

CASEL’s process for selecting the award recipients is based on a review of recommended names and professional profiles provided by a committee of CASEL advisers for each of the two awards. The awards have been presented either at one of the CASEL Forums or, in alternate years, at a professional association meeting. CASEL has created special funds for the awards, and each recipient receives a cash gift and transportation to the presentation ceremony.

Mary Utne O'Brien Awards

To honor the memory of the late CASEL executive director Mary Utne O'Brien, and to promote her dedication to high-quality practice in social and emotional learning, the CASEL Board of Directors established an award focused exclusively on expanding evidence-based SEL practice, including policymaking.

Joseph E. Zins Awards

To honor the memory of the late CASEL collaborator Joseph E. Zins, in 2007 CASEL established the Zins Awards for Action Research in Social and Emotional Learning. CASEL presents the awards to investigators and researchers at distinct phases in their careers.