National University System Appoints Child Development Leader Lauren M. Puzen Director of Sanford Harmony Program

New director will drive continuation of Sanford Harmony’s rapid expansion and ensure greater integration of the program in schools, community-based organizations, and in family activities.

Sanford Programs, an initiative of the National University System, announced Lauren M. Puzen, MSW, MPH, as director of the Sanford Harmony Program. Puzen is a leader in child development who has unique experience in cross-sector public health, youth development, education, and social services initiatives.

Sanford Harmony is the nation’s fastest growing social and emotional learning program that serves more than 9.3 million young people in the United States and around the globe. Inspired and funded by philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, Sanford Harmony provides high-quality learning modules, training for implementation, and ongoing coaching free of charge to school districts and nonprofits.

Puzen has earned two master’s degrees-one in social work in nonprofit management and another in public health from Temple University-and has served at every level in youth development systems that support children’s social and emotional health and well-being. For the past seven years, she developed and drove physical and social and emotional health expansion strategies at the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a national nonprofit that empowers kids to develop lifelong healthy habits by ensuring that the environments that surround them provide and promote good health.

Puzen’s mission in life, she says, is to “better connect social supports, education, and public health to ensure all kids can thrive physically, emotionally, socially, and cognitively.”

Her role will be to execute the national expansion of Sanford Harmony and ensure greater integration of the program in schools, community-based organizations, and in homes. “Lauren brings deep knowledge and experience in working with young people to improve their health and well-being. We look forward to working with her to help us bring Sanford Harmony to millions more young people,”” notes Dr. Michael R. Cunningham, chancellor of the National University System, a network of nonprofit education institutions and initiatives serving Pre-K – doctoral students

“Lauren knows the youth development system inside and out—from inside schools and classrooms to out-of-school programs, youth sports, and summer camps,” says Scott Page, senior vice president of Sanford Programs, which includes Sanford Harmony as well as programs that support inspirational teaching and effective fundraising for emerging nonprofit professionals. “She has run and evaluated large-scale programs and established standards and training in school and out-of-school settings.”

Major goals for Sanford Harmony are to bring the program to more than 20 million students in the United States and other countries. Puzen is working with National University System leaders to move in new strategic directions, including:

  • Creating a continuum of social and emotional learning (SEL) by ensuring more comprehensive implementation and flexibility, and growing programs within schools to serve all elementary school grades.
  • Making Sanford Harmony learning materials more versatile for use in recreation centers, after-school programs, and summer camps.
  • Building a virtual implementation community that provides training and support online.
  • Expanding access to children who lack technology and/or do not speak English at home.
  • Helping parents extend SEL lessons that students learn in school.
  • Building the social and emotional competence of teachers.
  • Creating a more closely connected SEL ecosystem inside and outside of school.

Puzen notes that a major turning point in efforts to advance social and emotional learning will be to move beyond a singular and siloed approach to SEL. “We need to connect social and emotional learning to all aspects of schooling and children’s lives. The goal is not only to increase student access to social and emotional learning but to integrate it into other things schools, community programs, and families do.”
While at Healthier Generation, Puzen helped the organization move in new strategic directions by driving the organization’s “whole child” strategy. She built partnerships with schools and specific health issue areas and helped integrate social and emotional learning initiatives (including Sanford Harmony) into programs promoting children’s health and well-being in the United States.

Previously, she expanded Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools and Communities Program and served as a program manager of its Healthy Out-of-School Time initiative. She also served as a program specialist and program assistant for the Public Health Management Corporation in Philadelphia where her work began at developing, integrating, and evaluating standards to ensure quality programming across the city.

Learn more about Lauren Puzen and her vision for Sanford Harmony in Lauren’s insightful Q&A.

About Sanford Programs, an initiative of the National University System

The National University System is leading the national expansion of the three Sanford Programs, which were established through the generous support of philanthropist T. Denny Sanford. Sanford Harmony is a Pre-K-6 research-based social emotional learning program that cultivates strong classroom relationships between all students. Sanford Harmony has been recognized by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) as a quality program. The Sanford Institute of Philanthropy helps support the preparation of nonprofit frontline fundraiser leaders. Sanford Inspire offers a toolkit of research-based teaching methodologies, and on-demand, self-guided modules that are accessible online to help Pre-K-12 teachers create inspirational learning environments and encourage students to succeed.