Trauma Informed Education with Dr. Selwyn Rogers and Dr. Micere Keels

The jarring reality of trauma affects our community physically and emotionally, and has lasting implications on our future, especially for the youngest members of our community. On February 3rd, renowned trauma surgeon Dr. Selwyn Rogers, Founding Director of the Trauma Center and Executive Vice President for Community Health Engagement of the University of Chicago and Dr. Micere Keels, Associate Professor in the University of Chicago’s Comparative Human Department provided expert insight into trauma; how to identify key characteristics, and what we could learn about the implication of trauma in our schools. Please see a recap of the conversation, authored by Dr. Micere Keels, below:

  • Trauma has many different facets that require an accurate assessment and the appropriate supports to diminish its impact. This conversation served as one of many that has happened and will happen as we continue to address these issues in our city.
  • Trauma begins as exposure to traumatic events that overwhelms one’s coping resources, and traumatization is the psychological wound that lingers when people don’t receive interpersonal or institutional coping supports that restore their sense of safety. When traumatization occurs early in life many core aspects of development are disrupted, resulting in a loss of core cognitive, interpersonal, and self-regulation capacities
  • There are distinct types of trauma from historical trauma, to acute and chronic trauma, to system-induced trauma.
  • The intergenerational transmission of inequality occurs because of an interlocking system of historical trauma that sets up each new generation for different levels of exposure to traumatic life experiences and different levels of access to coping supports. 
  • Exposure to interpersonal violence, particularly gun violence and homicide, is significantly associated with income inequality, and is disproportionately experienced by African Americans. Neighborhood level disparities in income and violence significantly affect health and longevity. In Chicago, a distance of a few miles is associated with large gaps of up to 16 years in life expectancy.    
  • Many schools are serving student populations where it is reasonable to assume that all of the students are coping with traumatic stressors that create cognitive, emotional and behavioral dysregulation. These traumatic stressors include: housing and food insecurity, involvement with child protective and foster care systems, household and neighborhood violence, juvenile justice system involvement, etc.   
  • Research in neuroscience, psychological, clinical, and educational studies can be used to understand how trauma shows up in students’ classroom behaviors, and identify the educational practices and school policies that are responsive to the needs of traumatized students. The Trauma Responsive Educational Practices Project (TREp Project) is one research-translation project that is working on creating trauma-informed schools (

Stay in touch: