Emotional Intelligence Experts
Emotional intelligence (EI) and social and emotional learning (SEL) go hand-in-hand. When students learn social and emotional skills, they gain emotional intelligence. We’re grateful to have had the following experts serve as keynote speakers for our annual Head and Heart Awards Luncheon. Over the years they have covered topics such as bullying, hope’s effects on happiness, and technology’s effect on relationships. All of their expertise has tied back to the importance of strengthening social and emotional skills at an early age.

Dr. Michele Borba

Dr. Borba is an internationally-recognized educational psychologist and parenting, bullying and character expert whose aim is to strengthen children’s empathy and resilience, and create safe, compassion school cultures. A sought-after motivational speaker, she has presented keynotes throughout North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific and served as a consultant to hundreds of schools and corporations including the Pentagon and 18 US Army bases in Europe and the Asian-Pacific.


Sherry Turkle

Sherry Turkle is a Professor of Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT with over 30 years of experience in researching the psychological effects of technology on relationships. Turkle has written two books on the topic and shared her expert opinion on technology and relationships on various news channels and social platforms. Her interests have led her to explore the theory that technology is connecting society more than ever, yet leaving society more lonely than ever. She speaks to the idea that technology simplifies communication, but decreases our ability to read each other and assess emotion. In sum, technology aids in superficial conversation. “We text, email, shop, gamble, and play games while in meetings, in class, at dinner, and during play time – all times that used to be sacred. It is time to redefine the role technology plays in our lives.” Turkle is not anti-technology, but rather pro-conversation.


Shane Lopez

Former professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, Shane Lopez is now considered the world’s leading researcher on hope. In his book, Making Hope Happen, he explains that hope is key to success, maybe even more so than intelligence. Years of research led Lopez to the conclusion that ”Hope matters. Hope is a choice. Hope can be learned and spread to others. How well we hope determine how well we live.” Since hope plays such a big part in our lives, it is crucial to start building this element at an early age. Tuning into oneself to determine hopes, fears, strengths and weaknesses, can be accomplished through social and emotional learning.


Daniel Goleman

Best selling author and pioneer of the term emotional intelligence, Dan Goleman has revolutionized the way we look at ‘soft skills.’ Emotional intelligence includes self-awareness, self-regulation, internal motivation, empathy, and social skills. Goleman’s theory concludes that leaders possess high emotional intelligence, not just technical skills. He states, “Great leadership works through emotions.” Employees that possess these skills can set businesses up for success; however, emotional intelligence is not just valuable in the workplace. High emotional intelligence in our personal lives can lead to stronger and deeper relationships. Goleman co-founded the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) to promote these ‘soft skills’ to the traditional education system.


Stephen Klasko

As a husband, father, doctor, businessman, and educator, Dr. Stephen Klasko has broad interests. Recently, Dr. Klasko has focused his efforts on revolutionizing the field of healthcare. As CEO of USF Health and Dean of College of Medicine at USF, Klasko works to combine the medical academic curriculum with people skills. He created the SELECT program at USF, which builds emotional intelligence in medical students. Dr. Klasko looks to Frameworks as a way to develop EI skills in children at a younger age, so that they benefit from strong interpersonal skills throughout life. Speaking of EI he said, “we wouldn’t have to teach it in our physician SELECT program – aspiring doctors would already have it when they applied to medical school.” Emotional intelligence is at the core of our personal and professional lives.


Allen Brinkman

After graduating from Columbus University and UGA, Allen Brinkman went on to become the Chairman, President, and CEO of SunTrust Bank in Tampa and Southwest Florida. In addition to his roles in the commercial banking industry, Brinkman is also active in Tampa’s philanthropic community. While Brinkman has an impressive professional resume, he attributes most of his success to emotional intelligence. As we react primarily in an emotional state, and then a rational state, Brinkman believes that mastering our emotions provides greater opportunities for achievement. “These ‘soft’ skills are not soft at all, but rather a component of leadership.”  Mastering self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, responsible decision making, and conflict resolution on a constant basis, can set us up for personal and professional success.


Dr. Jo Ann Freiberg

Dr. Freiberg holds a PhD in the Philosophy of Education and has dedicated her career to eliminating bullying. As a self-proclaimed anti-bullying czar, Freiberg currently serves as an Educational Consultant with the State Department of Education in Connecticut. Freiberg’s research has led to the conclusion that the best way to prevent bullying is to create a positive school environment. “Unless school personnel interrupt degrading comments, challenge the biased assumptions, and educate students about differences, we are likely to see perpetuation of bullying behaviors, harassment, and intimidation,” says Dr. Freiberg. When children are encouraged to communicate, they relate to each other more easily. This empathy decreases the likelihood of bullying behavior. For this reason, programs that cater to social and emotional learning play a large role in positive development.