Em  Daniels Author of Evaluating Organization Development

Em Daniels

Teacher, Author, and Education Consultant
Joyseed Consulting LLC

I am a master educator & leading expert on the impacts of trauma on adult learning. I am also a skilled facilitator and speaker, with an extensive background in adult education that includes alternative high schools, prisons, free college campuses, private and non-profit organizations, gov’t institutions, and community agencies. My research & expertise focus on countering the impacts of trauma on learning, expanding how we think about healing, and naming multiple points of entry to the work


I am a field researcher at the intersection of education, corrections, criminal legal reform, and abolition.  I am compelled to ground my work in what I hear from community groups and impacted people and families, as well as learning from a wide variety of thinkers, activists, mystics, practitioners, and healers.  I believe our shared experiences can bring us to as much understanding of the world as other types of research and exploration.

My first text begins the conversation about bringing joy into adult learning spaces, and that is the direction my thinking and learning are moving.  I have observed and experienced joy as an antidote to some of the impacts of trauma, but have much more to learn.  I am also curious how we can bring joy into challenging spaces, especially carceral classrooms, and what that can mean for learners.  For myself, I am considering the question “How do we engage imagination and wonder as an entrance to creating our lives, and not only as an escape from difficult circumstances?”


    BA Communications, UNC-Charlotte, 2003
    MST, Portland State University, 2006

Areas of Research / Professional Expertise

    My research and expertise focus on countering the impacts of trauma on adult learning by expanding beyond a mental health approach and defining multiple points of entry to the work.  This approach is grounded in the necessity of addressing individual and systemic trauma as crucial to create and sustain a just and compassionate world.

    I come to this work from a non-traditional academic background that began in community based organizations and programs and progressed through an enormous variety of teaching and learning experiences.  My master’s work focused on the intersections of conflict and education and I originally framed my thinking through a broad lens of peace activism.  When I began teaching in prison, however, my focus began to narrow as I learned about the system of mass incarceration and the people and communities held in its grip.

    That focus narrowed even more during my work as a reentry education navigator.  Helping people impacted by mass incarceration navigate educational bureaucracy in an unkind institution led me to research on trauma, institutionalization, and the impacts of incarceration on adult learning.  I closely examined the web of connection between education, racism, poverty, incarceration, unaddressed and unresolved trauma, intergenerational lack of access to resources, and systemic oppression in an effort to help staff and faculty better understand the barriers facing re-entering students.

    My hope is that my contribution to this work, to this field, will join an emergent conversation - profound and wide-ranging - about how we treat each other, and how we treat ourselves.

Personal Interests

    I have been an artist and social dancer for many years.  My preferred artistic media are watercolor and ink/line drawing, and my dancing is usually salsa, bachata, cha cha, and merengue, although I'll try dancing to anything.  I dabble in all kinds of reading but don't write much outside of the professional realm.  I love love love sharing learning spaces, regardless of topic, and often combine art and music with facilitation.


Featured Title
 Featured Title - Building a Trauma-Responsive Educational Practice - 1st Edition book cover



Impacts of Trauma on Adult Learning (Maggie Garb lecture series)

Published: Oct 28, 2021

In this video, Em discusses the impacts of trauma and incarceration on adult learners, offering practical guidance for helping students strengthen their ability to learn.

How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime | Nadine Burke Harris

Published: Dec 17, 2014

Childhood trauma isn’t something you just get over as you grow up. Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris explains that the repeated stress of abuse, neglect and parents struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues has real, tangible effects on the development of the brain.

Healing Racial Trauma Through Body-Centered Psychology with Resmaa Menakem

Published: Dec 28, 2018

An interview with Resmaa Menakem, on his book My Grandmother's Hands, Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies. This is the first self-discovery book to examine white body supremacy in America from the perspective of trauma and body-centered psychology. https://www.nationalwellness.org/

We need to talk about an injustice | Bryan Stevenson

Published: Nov 30, 2011

In an engaging and personal talk -- with cameo appearances from his grandmother and Rosa Parks -- human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson shares some hard truths about America's justice system, starting with a massive imbalance along racial lines: a third of the country's black male population has been incarcerated at some point in their lives.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

Published: Dec 22, 2014

In his new book, Dr. van der Kolk explores how innovative treatments—ranging from meditation and neurofeedback to yoga, sports, and drama—offer new paths to healing and wellness.

Book Release: Building a Trauma-Responsive Educational Practice with Em Daniels

Published: Dec 17, 2021

This podcast is a special segment focused on a new book being released called, Building a Trauma-Responsive Educational Practice. This conversation is one you do not want to miss. I hope you are ready to be challenged and open to a new way to respond to trauma.

Recovery LIVE: Engaging Youth Voices to Inform Change

Published: Oct 28, 2021

Youth can change lives. The practice of youth engagement respects the right of young people to participate in decisions that impact their quality of life. It also honors the qualities they have honed through their life experiences. When used by programs and organizations, youth engagement strategies place young people in the role of active changemakers in developing policies, practices, and programs.