Undergraduate Research Opportunity


A message from Professor Elias:

The unifying themes in my action-research, clinical work, and policy/advocacy are the development of positive, constructive life paths for children and youth and the organization of opportunities to allow this to happen in equitable ways.  

This has brought me into areas such as social-emotional learning (SEL), its more recent variation, social-emotional and character development (SECD), emotional intelligence, social competence promotion, character education, primary prevention, school-based, evidence-based intervention, and development of identity.  At this point, the majority of my work occurs in schools, especially urban schools.  The challenges of these schools, and the equity gaps within them across different ethnic and socioeconomic groups, has also brought my work increasingly into the areas of implementation and sustainability of interventions,  and cutting edge issues such as the link of SECD and academics and the distinguishing features of sustainable, versus well-implemented, empirically supported innovations.  Finally, I have most recently begun to work in the area of promoting civic engagement among Rutgers University students via the creation of a Collaborative for Community-Based Research and Service (engage.rutgers.edu).

I have worked to establish the field of prevention, school-based preventive intervention, and social competence promotion as a credible, important, and rigorous area of research, practice, and public policy. To accomplish the latter, collaborative models are necessary, as are programs of longitudinal, synergistic action-research with an explicit eye to practice and policy.  Thus, I have organized my work within the Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab (www.secdlab.org) and use Edutopia-- the web site of the George Lucas Educational Foundation (yes, that George Lucas!!) as a public face for the expression of my work (www.edutopia.org/profile/maurice-j-elias). 

Why should I apply?

The Lab is dedicated to conducting action-research in public, private, and religious school settings for the purpose of building children’s skills for facing the tests of life, and not a life of tests. Our Lab will provide opportunities for students interested in understanding the relationship of academic achievement, social-emotional competencies, and the development of character and a core set of life principles, youth empowerment and purpose, and the development of school-based interventions to strengthen social-emotional skills , character, and one’s Laws of Life, sense of Positive Purpose, and prevent bullying, violence and victimization, substance abuse, and related problem behaviors. Our particular focus is disadvantaged, trauma-affected youth and the unique intervention approaches required to assist them effectively. We also have occasional opportunities to collaborate with researchers studying Jewish education and social-emotional and character development in Jewish contexts.  

What would I do in this lab?

Our students have opportunities for direct involvement in schools, learning to work with data and statistical analyses in our Lab, or a combination of both.  We prefer students who are able to commit for a full academic year, ideally beginning in at least some limited capacity in the prior year (and/or prior summer) so that you spend your year with us "doing," and not just "preparing" to do.  

Current projects include:

  • Developing Schools of Social-Emotional Competence and Character and Positive Climate (in New Brunswick and other local communities)

  • Laws of Life and Social-Emotional Learning in the Schools: A Longitudinal Action-Research Project

  • Implementation and Sustainability of School-Based Interventions

  • Assessment and Improvement of Civic Engagement

  • Social-Emotional Learning and Academic Achievement/Closing Achievement Gaps

  • Empowerment, Leadership, and Service-Learning Groups as an Alternative to in-School Discipline Procedures

To learn more information and/or to apply for any opportunities in the lab, please e-mail melias@psych.rutgers.edu