National University System, a private nonprofit system comprised of university and education-related affiliates, has announced a $100 million gift from South Dakota businessman and Giving Pledge signatory T. Denny Sanford in support of efforts to provide social emotional learning in grades pre-K-6.
The gift will support the expansion of the Sanford Harmony social emotional learning program, which was developed at Arizona State University's T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics and offers a toolkit of lessons and strategies that emphasize diversity and inclusion, empathy and critical thinking, communication, problem solving, and peer relationships. The program, which currently is available to more than 1.5 million students in all fifty states in English and Spanish editions, has been shown to increase academic achievement while reducing stereotyping, bullying, and aggressive behavior. In addition to making the program available to every public school and nonprofit organization serving pre-K-6 children, the gift will be used to expand the program globally with editions in Vietnamese, Mandarin, and Portuguese.
The largest gift in the 47-year-history of NUS — the base of Sanford Harmony, Sanford Inspire, and the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy since 2014 — will establish the Sanford Harmony Research Institute with an inaugural class of fellows from leading research institutions and will also fund scholarships to help teachers further their education while specializing in social emotional learning.
"Denny Sanford is a truly remarkable individual who believes strongly in the power of supportive, collaborative relationships to strengthen families, communities, and society at large," said National University System chancellor Michael R. Cunningham. "Denny’s vision of creating a better world starts with addressing these issues at the youngest ages, and it could not come at a more crucial time when the nation faces increasing challenges in our schools, homes, and in the workplace."