Director of Practice
Karen VanAusdal oversees multiple initiatives to support and scale SEL in school districts and with collaborators in the field. Previously she served as executive director for the Office of Social and Emotional Learning in the Chicago Public Schools, where she worked to ensure that all schools developed multitiered systems of support for students’ social, emotional, and behavioral needs. This included a focus on developing positive school and classroom climates, intentional instruction for social-emotional skill development, and targeted SEL interventions. Most recently, Karen spearheaded a districtwide initiative to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline (suspensions and expulsions) and increase SEL strategies in the Chicago schools, an effort that resulted in a 65 percent reduction in out of school suspensions over two years.
Karen joined the Chicago Public Schools in 2005, starting in the Office of Academic Enhancement, where she managed school improvement grants from the U.S. Department of Education. She became manager of the district’s Youth Development & Positive Behavior Supports office and was named director when that department was renamed the Office of Social and Emotional Learning in 2013.
Karen started her career as an elementary school math and literacy teacher in the Washington, D.C. area. From there, she joined Peace First, where for five years she designed and managed a whole-school SEL model in the Boston Public Schools. She earned a bachelor’s from Brown University, a master’s in human development from Harvard University, and a master’s in social policy from the London School of Economics. At home with her husband in Chicago, she also works on nourishing the SEL skills of her five- and seven-year-olds.