Welcome to the Emotions, Equity and Education lab homepage!


We collaborate with educators and communities to improve socioemotional learning, literacy, and achievement for all students. We are interested in constructs like stress, mental health, grit (persistence), emotion regulation, and motivation. Our work engages a diverse group of students from local schools as we examine socioemotional supports that make students successful in literacy and achievement. 


School Psychology, Dept. of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education
University of Maryland, 3212 Benjamin Building, College Park, MD 20742, USA

UMD Seal
Lab 2018

Emotions, Equity, & Education Lab Members


Colleen O'NealColleen R. O'Neal is lab director of the Emotions, Equity, and Education Lab and assistant professor of School Psychology in the College of Education at the University of Maryland, College Park (Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education).

Her primary research goals are to identify risk and resilience processes among minority students with a focus on emotions and stress. She conducts research asking: (1) HOW stress impacts ethnic minority student mental health and academic functioning, (2) WHAT socioemotional learning (e.g., emotion engagement), motivation (e.g., grit), emotion regulation and relationship-based protective factors prevent the negative impact of stress on academic functioning, and (3) WHO is most vulnerable to stress.

​Dr. O'Neal earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Long Island University in 2000 with NIMH predoctoral fellowship support studying emotions among minority youth facing community violence. She then completed an NIMH postdoctorate in Mental Health Statistics at NYU focused on multilevel, longitudinal analyses of change and psychometrics. She received her B.A. in Psychology at Cornell University and a master's degree in Child and Family Studies at Auburn University. Her work has been published in venues such as Child Development, Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology, and Development and Psychopathology. She recently completed minority stress and emotions research supported by a Brain and Behavior Foundation Young Investigator Award, a Fulbright Scholar Award, and a Fulbright New Leaders Group Award.


Ranga Ranga Atapattu is a post-intern doctoral candidate in the School Psychology program at UMD. Her research interests include resilience and social support. Before coming to UMD, Ranga received her B.A. in Psychobiology from Swarthmore College. 



MichalMichal Boyars is a sixth year doctoral student in the School Psychology program and a school psychology intern in Howard County Public Schools. Her research interests include social and emotional skills and how they relate to school achievement, specifically for children from different cultures. Michal received her B.S. in Human Development and Psychological Services from Northwestern University and her M.A. in School Psychology from the University of Maryland. 




NicoleNicole Gosnell is a fifth year doctoral student in the School Psychology program  and a school psychology intern in Howard County Public Schools. Her research interests include mental health, stress, and emotion regulation among refugee and immigrant children. Nicole received a B.A. in Psychology and a B.A. in Media and Communication Studies from UMBC and an M.A. in School Psychology from the University of Maryland. 



AlyssaAlyssa Daye is a fourth year student in the School Psychology program who came to UMD from Arizona State University. Her research interests include ethnic and racial identity, the impacts of affirmation interventions, student engagement, and test anxiety.





GabriellaGabriella Estevez is a fourth year doctoral student in the school psychology program. Her research interests include the effects of racial discrimination on the academic achievement of minority students and social emotional learning. Gabriella received a B.A. in English and a B.A. in Psychology from Rutgers University - New Brunswick, as well as an M.A. in School Psychology from the University of Maryland. 





LeylaLeyla Babaturk is a third year doctoral student in the school psychology program. She is interested in the effects of stress on the academic achievement of minority students. Other research interests include social emotional learning, mental health, and emotion regulation. Leyla received a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Maryland. 




KristenKristin Meyering is a second year doctoral student in the school psychology program. Her research interests include the effects of stress on student’s academic outcomes as well as risk and resiliency factors related to achievement in minority populations. Kristin received a B.A. in Psychology from Georgetown University. 

Grit Study

Dr. O'Neal's team is examining the impact of grit, stress, emotions, growth mindset, and social support on literacy and academic performance among ethnic minority students in elementary school. The team's long-term objective is to develop classroom-based interventions, in conjunction with two local public elementary schools. The team is also performing a follow-up study with the elementary school students in higher grades. Dr. O'Neal's team has developed a grit intervention consultation manual and tested a pilot of this intervention in the schools as part of this research program. 

Promoting Grit in Elementary School Students Through Culturally-Proficient Practices: Intervention and Evaluation

This study aims to encourage culturally relevant teaching practices and help close the achievement gap through teacher training and consultation. Consultation will focus on integrating grit promotion and cultural responsiveness into teachers’ Student Learning Objectives (SLOs). SLO’s involve the teachers identifying goals, developing individual interventions, and progress monitoring for individual students in need of improvement.   The study has three parts: focus group, training, and consultation.

The current project was initiated by a request from school administrators after receiving the results of our previous study in their school; they wanted to immediately follow up with an intervention.  The project is being developed in close collaboration with school staff, administrative leadership, and the school county’s Equity Initiatives Unit to ensure that it focuses on the issues of greatest importance to the school and county as a whole.

Resilient Refugee Education Project

Teacher Teaching Happy Student Learning Back Dr. O'Neal's resilient refugee education intervention with refugee teachers will now expand to include intervening with both refugee teachers and students around emotions, stress, and emotion management, in addition to classroom management. We are also examining culturally relevant ways to assess refugee student outcomes in addition to the possibility of accomodation of online and in-person refugee teacher training. 

In the spring of 2018, Dr. O'Neal and Nicole Gosnell plan to conduct additional qualitative focus groups and interviews in Malaysia to connect the constructs of stress, mental health, and self-care. The study will examine the perceived importance of self-care, specific coping strategies refugee teachers employ, and the overall impact of being a refugee teacher on mental health. 

Teacher Teaching Happy Student LearningRefugee Intervention Study

As a Fulbright Scholar, Coleen O’Neal completed a refugee teacher training and consultation intervention study in Malaysia. The goal of the study was to improve refugee teacher classroom management of refugee student behavior, attention, and emotions, and to promote healthy stress management. This study was done in collaboration with Fulbright alumni, NGO's, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Malaysia. Emphasizing classroom management and self-care, the project used a train-the-trainer model with the goal that the 124 participating teachers will train peers in their local schools. Find out more by viewing the Resilient Refugees Blog or by watching a short video on the project here.

Undocumented Latino/a Study

Dr. Michelle Espino and Dr. O'Neal studied emotions, stress, and academic functioning in addition to institutional supports among undocumented students taking advantage of the Maryland Dream Act, which permit them to pay in-state tuition rates at University of Maryland campuses. Check out the Dream Act Study Blog

Early Head Start

Dr. O'Neal and her collaborators recently compelted analyzing data on mother-child interactions within the Early Head Start program. 

Journal Articles

A Reciprocal, Moderated Mediation Model of Grit, Emotional Engagement, and Literacy Achievement Among Dual Language Learners
View a PDF of the article by clicking here.
O’Neal, C. R., Golthrite, A., Weston Riley, L., & Atapattu, R.K. (2018). A reciprocal, moderated mediation model of grit, emotional engagement, and literacy achievement among dual language learners. Social Development. http://dx.doi.org10.1111/sode.12288

The Impact of Stress on Later Literacy Achievement via Grit and Engagement Among Dual Language Elementary School Students
View a PDF of the article by clicking here.
O’Neal, C. R. (2018). The impact of stress on later literacy achievement via grit and engagement among dual language elementary school students. School Psychology International. 

Individual Versus Peer Grit: Influence on Later Individual Literacy Achievement of Dual Language Learners
View a PDF of the article by clicking here.
O’Neal, C. R. (2017). Influence of individual versus peer grit on later individual literacy achievement among dual language learners. School Psychology Quarterly

How True Is Grit? Assessing Its Relations to High School and College Students' Personality Characteristics, Self-Regulation, Engagement, and Achievement
View a PDF of the article by clicking here.
Muenks, K., Wigfield, A., Yang, J. S., & O’Neal, C. R. (2016). How true is grit? Assessing its relations to high school and college students’ personality characteristics, self-regulation, engagement, and achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology.

Change in Depression from Preadolescence to Adolescence: The Role of Early Anger Socialization and Child Anger Among Low-Income, Ethnic Minority Families
View a PDF of the article by clicking here.
O’Neal, C. R., Weston, L. C., He, X., Huang, K. Y., Pine, D. S., Kamboukos, D., & Brotman, L. M. (2017). Change in depression from preadolescence to adolescence: The role of early anger socialization and child anger among low-income, ethnic minority families. Journal of Adolescence, 59, 1-7. 

Maternal Responsivity to Infants in the “High Chair” Assessment: Longitudinal Relations with Toddler Outcomes in a Diverse, Low-Income Sample
View a PDF of the article by clicking here.
O’Neal, C. R., Weston, L., Brooks-Gunn, J., Berlin, L. J., & Atapattu, R. (2017). Maternal responsivity to infants in the “High Chair” assessment: Longitudinal relations with toddler outcomes in a diverse, low-income sample. Infant Behavior and Development, 47, 125-137. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2017.04.002
Global Consultation Processes: Lessons Learned from Refugee Teacher Consultation Research in Malaysia
View a PDF of the article by clicking here.
O’Neal, C. R., Gosnell, N., Ng, W. S., Ong, E., & Clement, J. (2017). Global consultation processes: Lessons learned from refugee teacher consultation research in Malaysia. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation. doi: 10.1080/10474412.2017.1293544

Refugee Teacher Preventive Intervention Research Promoting Refugee Student Behavior, Attention, and Emotions and Teacher Self-Care
View a PDF of the article by clicking here.
O’Neal, C. R., Gosnell, N., Ng, W. S., & Ong, E. (2017). Refugee teacher preventive intervention research promoting refugee student behavior, attention, and emotions and teacher self-care. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation. doi:10.1080/10474412.2017.1287576

Grit Under Duress: Stress, Strengths, and Academic Success Among Non-Citizen and Citizen Latina/o First-Generation College Students
View a PDF of the article by clicking here.
O'Neal, C.R., Espino, M. M., Goldthrite, A., Morin, M.F., Weston, L., Hernandez, P., Fuhrmann, A. (2016). Grit under duress: Stress, strengths, and academic success among non-citizen and citizen Latina/o first-generation college students. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 38(4), 446-466.

  • Undocumented Latina/o college students face obstacles and stressors; their stressful experiences and academic strengths merit empirical attention.
  • This cross-sectional, mixed-methods study explored stress, depression, grit, and grade point average (GPA) among non-citizen, Latina/o first-generation college students, as compared to citizen, Latina/o first-generation college students in Maryland.  
  • The study explores similarities and differences between both groups, with implications for ecological processes and achievement for Latino/a undocumented college students. 

Classroom Management and Socioemotional Functioning of Burmese Refugee Students
Download a PDF of the article by clicking here.
O’Neal, C. R., Atapattu, R., Jegathesan, A., Ong, E., Clement, J., & Ganesan, A. (2016). Classroom management and socioemotional functioning of Burmese refugee students in Malaysia. Journal of Education and Psychological Consultation. 

  • Refugee children in Malaysia are not allowed to attend public school. While hidden refugee schools exist, they only reach a fraction of the Burmese refugee children in Malaysia.
  • This journal article describes a participatory culture-specific consultation (PCSC) approach to examine the socioemotional and classroom management issues among Burmese refugee children in some of these hidden classrooms.
  • A number of themes emerged from consultation, including issues pertaining to the students' mental health, societal pressures, and the teachers' classroom management strategies.

Don't Forget the Children In Burma
View the full article at The Diplomat's website.
News Magazine Article

Grit Manual

Grit Consultation Manual
This manual guides psychologists in collaborating with teachers to implement grit interventions for students. Two successful case studies are used to show how this can be done, and recommendations are made for culturally-responsive adaptations to serve diverse school settings. The manual includes a new set of questionnaires based on the original Grit Scale. These questionnaires are adapted for a younger population of students and for teachers' use. We are currently working on a new publication that describes the psychometric qualities of these adapted scales.

Click here to download the Grit Consultation Manual!  
Click here to download the "Hurdler Handout" for goal setting.

Conference Presentations

American Psychological Association (APA) Conference, 2017
Boyars, M. Y. & O’Neal, C.R. (2017, August). Growth Mindset: Relations with Achievement Among Highly Gifted Students. Poster presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, Washington, DC.
Download a copy of the poster here.

National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), 2017
Boyars, M. Y., Gosnell, N., & O’Neal, C. R. (2017, February). “Pause Anger:” Two Schools’ Interventions for Emotion Regulation. Poster presented at the annual convention of the National Association of School Psychologists, San Antonio, TX.
Download a copy of the poster here.

Invited Presentation at the Maryland State Department of Education, 2016 Biannual Meeting​ for School Psychologists
Weston, L., Goldthrite, A., Boyars, M., & O’Neal, C. R. (March, 2016). Culturally proficient practices to promote social emotional learning and achievement: Translating school-based research into practice. Invited presentation at the Maryland State Department of Education School Psychologist Representatives biannual meeting, Baltimore, MD.

National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) 2016 Convention
Boyars, M. Y., & O'Neal, C. R. (2016, February). Socioemotional skills and the Achievement Gap. Poster presented at the annual convention of the National Association of School Psychologists, New Orleans, LA.
Download a copy of the poster here.

Harvard Student Research Conference, 2016 Convention
Boyars, M. Y., & O'Neal, C. R. (2016, March). Engagement, Grit, and the Achievement Gap. Poster presented at the Harvard Student Research Conference, Cambridge, MA.

American Psychological Association (APA) Conference, 2015
Presentation of our grit manual and its development process. The presentation focused on translating the grit literature for school-based applications, using two case successful case studies as examples. 

Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) 2015 Biennial Conference
Dr. O'Neal and Dr. Wigfield (from UMD's Human Development department) led a research symposium on motivation and academic achievement. Research was presented by Lynsey Weston, Ranga Attapatu, Meghan Green, Ben Perlow, and Dr. Colleen O'Neal, as well as Dr. Jade Wexler (from UMD's Special Education program). 

We welcome interest from all potential graduate students! Our lab is in the School Psychology Ph.D. program, housed in the Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education in the College of Education at University of Maryland. Applications for 2019 will be accepted in December 2018. Please check the Program Overview and School Psychology pages for more information about our program and admission criteria. 

To discover who we are and what we are currently working on, please look at the Lab Members and Research Projects tabs. If you would like to get a student's perspective of our lab, please contact Dr. O'Neal at and she will put you in touch with a graduate student. 

SP fun 2017

School Psychology Program Faculty and Students 2017-2018

American Educator

Fall 2018
Teaching English language learners: Tips from the classroom.
By Ferlazzo, L., & Sypnienski, K. H.

 [The authors refer to my O’Neal (2017) Individual versus Peer Grit paper published in School Psychology Quarterly in this American Educator article in a special issue on teaching English language learners; American Educator is a periodical for K-12 public school teachers published by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)]

Education Week

October 2017
For English-Learners, A Positive Side to Peer Pressure
By Corey Mitchell 

July 2017
For English-Learners, Seeing Peers 'Struggle and Persist' is Beneficial
By Corey Mitchell

Huffington Post

Bullying: We Can All Make A Difference
By Ellen Galinsky

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Fullbright Starts Efforts to Help Alumni Keep Global Ties
By Ian Wilhelm

Who are we?

We are researchers who study the socioemotional supports that make students successful in literacy and achievement. 

What kind of research do we do?

To find out more about our research, check out the Research Projects and Publications pages. 

Why do we want to work with local schools?

We are interested in socioemotional learning and literacy. Our work engages a diverse group of students - White, Latino/a, etc. - from schools around Montgomery County. 

What is involved?

Participation is free and voluntary. We often present our findings to teachers and parents at our collaborating schools. Our research is funded through a University of Maryland faculty grant.