Build Social Emotional Intelligence Skills for the COVID Economy & Beyond

The social-emotional intelligence thought leader proves curriculum sets students up for business success.

Woman looking at a Zoom meeting on her computer screen

As workers change jobs at record-breaking numbers, citing burnout in addition to higher-paying opportunities, students at the Wright Graduate University for the Realization of Human Potential are practicing a model of business leadership aimed at ensuring success and satisfaction for those they lead.

“Four decades of research make clear that transformational leaders—meaning socially-emotionally-intelligent leaders—lead teams to greater outcomes with less burnout,” says Dr. Bob Wright, co-founder of Wright Graduate University. “Leaders’ so-called ‘soft’ skills account for the greatest differences between low and high performers in all but the most routine jobs.”

‘Most business education has ignored or given lip service to this, prizing the technical knowledge,” says Wright, ”rather than immersing students in a milieu of intellectual stimulation and individualized consideration like those they’ll need to create as leaders.”

Wright’s accredited distance learning programs use an integrative model of education for leadership and coaching in which students personally apply assignments moment by moment in personal life and career as well as coaching, training, and leading others—all informed by their study of six core disciplines. A majority of its students are mid-career professionals who already have technical expertise in their career and are seeking support in advancing to leadership positions.

Working in the COVID and Post-COVID Economy

Prior to COVID, 71% of its 2019 graduates reported obtaining a new position or promotion during their education, with 86% reporting increased income and the average increase being 43%. But as the dynamics of the COVID and post-COVID economy change the nature of people’s to work, the role of improving social-emotional intelligence skills becomes important not just in individual advancement but in graduates’ ability to retain and lead effective teams and to maintain clients and develop business.

“The implications of remote work, artificial intelligence, robotics, and new technology are changing the direction of work,” says Dr. Bernard Luskin, Dean of Graduate Studies. “WGU develops students’ uniquely human  social and emotional intelligence capacities for dealing with complex business challenges and relationships with sensitivity.”

Student Success Story: Jennifer Masi

Jennifer Masi, COO and Director of Creative Services at real estate marketing agency Torque Ltd. in Chicago, enrolled in Wright’s Doctor of Education program seven months into the pandemic. Torque’s revenue was down 40% compared to 2019, so it wasn’t an obvious time to continue her education. But Torque was developing highly creative, technical solutions for their commercial real estate clients pivoting to virtual tours and other innovative solutions, and it was stretching their creative staff.

“Some of our employees were living alone, and all of them were navigating the fear of the pandemic. This was stressful in itself, and then we were asking them to do things they hadn’t done before to execute new strategies and figure out what it would take to be a profitable business,” Masi said. “Everyone was challenged to stay connected and productive within the fear and uncertainty, and I started thinking about what leadership qualities I needed to navigate this.”

“We coach our clients that their marketing has to authentically reflect who they are as a business. I realized that if our team couldn’t feel us supporting them to learn and grow, be empowered, and live our core value of collaboration, particularly in this challenging time, we weren’t being congruent. I needed to look at myself and how I needed to keep stepping up and supporting my team.”

Masi enrolled in Wright’s Doctor of Education program at the end of October 2020, and the company ended the year having rebounded to 94% of their 2019 goal and all but two team members still with the company. “My transformational leadership studies are empowering me to be a satisfied woman in business, making sure that I’m not backing down when I have a vision, an initiative, something that I feel is really important that I’m going for,” Masi says. “Because I’m looking out for each person, the whole group is going to be successful and everyone benefits.”

She credits their success to the social-emotional-intelligence skills they’ve trained in as a team. “We worked so hard to help our people stay connected to each other and our clients during that time, and now that business is opening up, our clients are coming to us with work and looking for lots of support.”

Student Success Story: Peter Stover

Wright Graduate University doctoral student Peter Stover is a K-8 visual arts teacher in the Chicago area who in 2019 had been named by his district as the outstanding social-emotional learning teacher of the year. But when the pandemic ended in-person instruction, Stover says, “The relationships I had with students became even more central than the art education. If I wasn’t tuned in to what was really going on with them, if they weren’t in a relationship with me, they wouldn’t log in to class.”

Stover says that during the pandemic year that the social-emotional intelligence focus of his doctoral education has helped him process his own emotions and be more available for his students. “Every teacher is afraid and at some level wants to be liked by their students,” said Stover. “But as I’m learning to savor my upsets and insecurities and not expect my students to affirm me, it makes me a more consistent, reliable, trustworthy educator they actually want to be in the classroom with.”

His new-found focus on relationships has expanded the roles he holds beyond classroom teacher. Last year he led a team of staff, students, and parents in creating a series of events to showcase what the school community is doing and was asked to consult his former school on social-emotional learning. And his district-level role expanded from mentoring new teachers 1-on-1 to being part of the team writing curriculum and training teachers district-wide for engaging with trauma, in keeping with his doctoral research focus.

About Wright Graduate University

At Wright Graduate University, we believe you learn leadership by leading. Whether one-on-one in coaching, in teams, or in your daily life and relationships, you are always leading—the question is only “toward what?” From day one, Wright students direct their learning toward their own most pressing challenges, unpacking and applying the best of human development research and theory from a rigorous, accredited course of study to reach their full potential and lead others to do the same.

Wright offers M.A., and Ed.D. programs in Transformational Leadership and Coaching, as well as graduate certificate programs in leadership, coaching, and social and emotional intelligence. All programs are offered fully online (with in-person class options) and include one-on-one mentoring. The University provides a performative learning environment that synthesizes and applies the best theories and methodologies related to the enhancement of human potential—ancient Greek philosophy to modern-day existential philosophy; develop­mental, Adlerian, humanistic, and positive psychology; educational theories from Dewey to Vygotsky to Mezirow; and current research in neuroscience, and behavioral economics.

Applicants must have earned a bachelor’s degree in any field. No GRE required for admission. Graduates use the skills they gain to enhance rewarding careers as business leaders, educators and trainers, and professional coaches in careers from finance and technology to public or non-profit administration and education. Learn more about Wright Graduate University here.

A division of the 501c3 Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, based in Chicago, IL, Wright Graduate University’s main campus is located in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Wright Graduate University is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission. In addition, its business programs have obtained programmatic accreditation from IACBE, the International Accrediting Commission on Business Education (see listing here).


Peter Stover

Peter Stover
Current Student, Doctor of Education in Transformational Leadership and Coaching, Wright Graduate UniversityM.A. in Transformational Leadership and Coaching, Wright Graduate University, 2017M.A.T. in Elementary Education from Columbia College ChicagoNational Board Certified TeacherB. Arts and HumanitiesColumbia College Chicago



Jennifer Masi

Jennifer Masi
Current Student, Doctor of Education in Transformational Leadership and Coaching, Wright Graduate UniversityM.A. in Transformational Leadership and Coaching, Wright Graduate University, 2018B.F.A. in Graphic Design, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design

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Accreditation: Wright Graduate University is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, an accrediting agency recognized by the US Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education (CHEA). Wright Graduate University business programs have received specialized accreditation through the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE). See complete accreditation and recognition details here.