Sarah conducts keynotes, anchor sessions, plenary sessions, and interactive workshops for a variety of conferences and faculty in-services. Speaking engagements for education audiences have largely been solo, and engagements framed for business and corporate needs have been both solo and led with product innovator Julie Sargent. Industry clients have included the Bose Corporation, the WorkHuman conference, and design group Subforum.

Below are some popular topics that could be presented in either keynotes or interactive workshops for a variety of audiences, with sample slides for each presentation (usually the introduction to the talk).

Sarah has given talks on a variety of other topics, including emotional labor in the workplace, healthy technology habits, building community, and (especially during the 2020-2021 academic year) teaching during disruption. Get in touch to talk about specially crafted talks.
Energizing Learning with the Science of Emotion
Four Pillars of Emotional Engagement

Historically we have constructed our classrooms with the assumption that learning is a dry, staid affair best conducted in quiet tones and ruled by an unemotional consideration of the facts. The pedagogical world, however, is beginning to awaken to the potential power of emotions to fuel learning, informed by contributions from psychology and neuroscience. In this interactive presentation, Sarah Rose Cavanagh will argue that if you as an educator want to capture your students’ attention, enhance their motivation, harness their working memory, and bolster their long-term retention, you should consider the emotional impact of your teaching style and course design. To make this argument, she will bring to bear empirical evidence from the study of education, psychology, and neuroscience. She will also present results from a recently concluded research study evaluating whether providing students some tools from emotion regulation before a lesson benefits their short- and long-term learning. The presentation will conclude with practical examples of activities and assignments that capitalize on this research and can be implemented in your very next class.

Who Would Benefit: Well-suited for secondary or higher education, could also be crafted for on-the-job learning.

“Best Speaker I Have Seen on Campus!”

—Jeremy Tiermini, Fingerlakes Community College
Honeybees, Smartphones, & Zombies

Hivemind: A collective consciousness in which we share consensus thoughts, emotions, and opinions; a phenomenon whereby a group of people function as if with a single mind. We have always been a remarkably social species — our moods, ideas, and even our perceptions of reality synchronize without our conscious awareness. The advent of social media and smartphones has amplified these tendencies in ways that spell both promise and peril. Our hiveish natures benefit us in countless ways: combatting the mental and physical costs of loneliness, connecting us with collaborators and supporters, and exposing us to entertainment and information beyond what we can find in our literal backyards. But of course, there are also looming risks, including echo chambers, political polarization, and conspiracy theories that have already begun to have deadly consequences. In this talk, psychologist and author Sarah Rose Cavanagh considers the implications of this magnification of our ultrasocial natures.

This talk could be crafted to focus more on political polarization, on collective versus individual identities, or on the relationships between technology and mental health.

Who Would Benefit: Many different audiences, from schools to businesses to wellness groups, depending on the topic!

“Professor Cavanagh introduced our graduate students to the importance of integrating emotion into their teaching practice as a way of catalyzing student learning. “Inspiring’, ‘thoughtful’ and ‘fruitful’ are a sample of the adjectives used to describe how they experienced her interaction with them. We would invite her back in a heartbeat for more workshops!”

—Jennifer Hadingham, Assistant Director & Lecturer, Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning, University of Rochester
Crafting Learning Environments of Compassionate Challenge

Our young people are experiencing an alleged epidemic of mental health problems, especially of anxiety. To set them on a path toward resilience, students need to learn in environments that are both compassionate and challenging. For emotions like fear are not inevitable, hard-wired phenomena but rather malleable configurations of bodily and cognitive changes that we can influence from within (changing how we interpret and make meaning) or from without (changing the situation we’re in). While we in higher ed don’t have much control over the interpretations our students make, we do have a fair amount of control over the policies and practices that shape our new student orientations, the spaces where they eat and breathe and work, and most of all our classrooms or learning management systems.

If we build vibrant living and learning spaces where students feel that they belong, where they feel it is safe to take risks, where they are exposed to novel ideas, where we model open, curious behaviors for them—essentially, where they can strive to play, they will be more likely to make the sorts of mental attributions that are associated with resilience and mental well-being.

We can do this by intentionally shaping our college communities with compassionate challenge in mind—creating learning environments characterized by safety, belongingness, and play.

Who Would Benefit: Secondary or higher education audiences.