I was in the ninth cohort of the Master of Applied Positive Program at Penn. Consequently, there are tons of brilliant MAPP Alumni out there who have fascinating stories to tell: about their experience with the program, about Positive Psychology in general – and about themselves of course. I really want to hear those stories. That´s why I started to do Mappsterviews.
Please introduce yourself briefly:
For nearly ten years, I’ve been at the forefront of human capital development by utilizing positive psychology to bring out the strengths in individuals, groups, organizations and communities. My expertise includes leadership development, team building, change management, human capital energy audits, and organizational culture initiatives including a city-wide project in Cleveland Ohio. As one of the first one hundred people in the world with an advanced degree in applied positive psychology I have had the honor of helping organizations and individuals achieve high potential using scientifically informed tools and strategies. My heart work is about helping people remember to choose love over fear.
What did you do before joining the MAPP program at Penn?
A lot of stuff – looking for my calling, expecting that when I found it, I would know. Sure enough, that day in December 2006 when I opened the New York Times to see one of the first popular press articles in Positive Psychology, I had a visceral sense through my body that this was it. I had always known I was a change-agent. As a former school teacher, I had always been called to help school communities which are often archaic and dysfunctional systems. I love the phrase attributed to Einstein that “we can’t solve today’s problems with the same thinking that created them.” Helping people think about how they think and from a positive perspective – yes, this was/is it!
What got you interested in Positive Psychology in the first place?
I had always been interested in personal development programs, ever since I was a teenager. As a young adult, I took the Landmark Forum. Impressed by its “technology” I wanted to bring it to people I loved and cared about; their model is to “enroll” others. However, I was always met with such resistance. There had to be a better way, I thought – a more positive approach to keep people in opportunity mode – as opposed to the threat response I so often got. When I discovered Positive Psychology, I knew it was what I had been yearning for/envisioning all along.
Here’s another more personal reason I am interested in Positive Psychology.
I´ve learned that you are a Fellow of George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Wellbeing. What kind of work are you doing for them?
It’s been more work “with” them than “for” them. I have been involved in the campus wellbeing initiative that is part of the university’s strategic plan. I’ve also done some training courses internally for their university life staff and externally for their coaching program. The center was instrumental in bringing my MAPP capstone to life in a city-wide wellbeing intervention in Cleveland Ohio from 2011-2014. I am grateful for their partnership and support. The people there really walk the talk and not everyone in Positive Psychology does.
You also work on a framework you call “Social-Emotional Leadership”. What is that all about?
It’s about being the change we wish to see in the world. It’s about taking influential (not positional) leadership in our lives – at home, work and any place in between. It’s about leveraging the contagion factor. Social Emotional Leaders stand up to say, “Hey guys, we can do better.” It’s about facilitating that positive change first for oneself and then for others. As one of my former students said, “We must drink as we pour” to signify the importance of taking care of ourselves as change-agents.
Additionally, you run an organization that offers Positive Psychology education in several cities all across the USA. I´d love to hear about that.
Emiliya Zhivotovskaya and I launched the Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP) three years ago in New York. We’re now in twelve different cities (US + Canada) offering a top-rated six month personal and professional learning journey for social-emotional leaders – change-agents who once they learn the science of human nature and behavior will become more effective in their spheres of influence. It’s a train-the-trainer executive education model. It’s a solid program. I hear all the time, “CAPP surpasses my expectations!”
We have new cohorts in Raleigh, NC, New York, NY and San Francisco CA starting this spring.
Do you have any plans for going international with CAPP?
Yes! Stay tuned. Our vision is to have CAPP cohorts in every city around the world. People are so hungry for this stuff and what an honor it is to facilitate learning, growth, and positive evolution. Right now, international students can apply for our online program.