Embodied Positive Psychology Presentations

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Embodied Positive Psychology Summit: Leadership in Education

There is a depth of wisdom in those who attend the Embodied Positive Psychology Summit. That’s why we’ve created explicit opportunities for these rich conversations through poster sessions. The posters represent research or case studies of applied research in educational leadership.


Posters Sessions

Increasing College Student Retention with Positive Psychology
Kimberly Daubman, Bucknell University

Colleges and universities across the country prioritize student retention. Some students choose to leave the university to find someplace with a better fit, but others leave as a result of poor performance. At my institution, students with low GPAs in their first semester are either suspended for a semester or are put on “academic warning,” which requires they earn a certain GPA in their second semester to remain at the university. Until this year, there was no program to support those on academic warning.

In this poster session, you’ll learn about a new 5-credit class, based on positive psychology, designed to support these students. Our primary objective was to encourage students to develop insights, skills, and practices to expand their success in and out of the classroom.

About Kimberly Daubman

Kimberly Daubman received a PhD in social psychology from the University of Maryland in 1991, and a Certificate in Wholebeing Positive Psychology in 2018. She has been a professor at Bucknell University since 1993.

Essential Programs to Coach and Empower Caregivers of Children with Hearing Loss
Joanne Travers, Partners for A Greater Voice, Inc.

Parent empowerment is a leading topic in hearing health and habilitation around the world, yet practitioners in low- and limited-income countries remain challenged with sustainable outcomes in parent engagement and responsiveness. Partners for A Greater Voice (PGV), a nonprofit international training and education organization, implemented a parent-education survey in 2015 (completed by more than 450 parents), which led to the development of Essential Programs to Coach and Empower. The initiative is designed around the psychological well-being of parental caregivers. It is focused on parent empowerment and coaching strategies believed to be universally accepted regardless of culture or socioeconomic status. More than 70 volunteer partners have traveled with PGV on more than 34 training missions to the Dominican Republic, India, and Honduras since 2001. Missions have aligned with priority interests and needs of practitioners and caregivers. PGV now focuses on caregivers and uses a positive psychology approach to empower parents and foster their well-being.

In this poster session, you’ll learn about the positive psychology and related interventions used to ensure that caregivers are equipped emotionally and prepared to engage and participate in their children’s learning and communication. Domains of well-being that establish the foundation of the PGV approach are highlighted.

About Joanne Travers

Joanne Travers founded and directs Partners for A Greater Voice (PGV), a small, international charitable organization. Her cause and purpose serve practitioners and caregivers of children with hearing loss in low- and limited-income countries. She has more than 20 years of experience in the field, and is inspired by her two adult children, who were born with hearing loss and mainstreamed in public schools. As an advocate, coach, and parent, Joanne has accumulated diverse experience to address important issues in the developing world. Earning her Certificate in Positive Psychology from Wholebeing Institute in 2015 supported her in transforming her organization. She also has a master’s degree in international management.

Teaching Positive Psychology in Circle: Toward a Methodology of Inclusion
Michele Rusinko, Gustavus Adolphus College

The focus of this poster presentation is the use of The Circle Way methodology as a conscious pedagogical choice to create a co-learning environment for positive psychology–based courses. The poster is based on a one-month January-term course, taught for the past three years, called Bouncing Forward: Resiliency Practices for College and Beyond. Using the structure and guidelines of The Circle Way, the class introduces students to the tools, concepts and principles of resilience offered by current evidence-based research in positive psychology and mind-body medicine.

This course was developed to support the many bright and capable students who crumble under intense academic and social demands. It serves a diverse and shifting student population, including refugees, recent immigrants, non-binary students, and/or those from historically underrepresented groups. Central to this course is the core belief that all of these students are resilient. This course is about naming, identifying, and amplifying skills they already have.

About Michele Rusinko

Michele Rusinko is a teacher, choreographer, dancer, writer, engaged citizen, and passionate lifelong learner. She has taught at Gustavus Adolphus College, in St. Peter, Minnesota, since 1988, and served as chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance for more than half those years. She received her undergraduate degree from St. Olaf College and MFA from Arizona State University. Her current research explores the intersections between her experience teaching dance and somatic science; her scholarship in the psychology of resiliency; and an embodied understanding of human dignity. She holds a certificate in Positive Psychology from Wholebeing Institute, and is currently developing an undergraduate curriculum in the science of resiliency as grounded in the field of positive psychology. Drawing from Circle Process, Appreciative Inquiry, and positive psychology, Michele creates structures for participatory learning and wise action to emerge.

Improvements in Psychological Well-Being in Educators
Sara Borden, Kripalu RISE

Working in education is a high-stress, high-stakes job. Would yoga-based mind/body tools help those working within this demanding environment? That’s the question we set out to answer in this pragmatic, real-world controlled trial, examining changes in psychological well-being in educators who attended a residential iteration of RISE, Kripalu’s yoga-based stress-resilience program.

This poster looks at the findings of the study, which suggest that the 3-day RISE program improved multiple measures of psychological and occupational well-being in education professionals both immediately following RISE and two months later. Immediately post-program, participants showed improvements in perceived stress, resilience, positive affect, negative affect, mindfulness, empowerment, self-compassion, satisfaction with life, professional efficacy, exhaustion, total work engagement, and vigor. At the two-month follow-up, participants showed improvements in self-reported mindfulness, empowerment, stress, positive affect, negative affect, self-compassion, work engagement, professional efficacy, and the exhaustion dimension of burnout compared to baseline.

About Sara Borden

Sara Borden MBA, is the Operations and Impact Reporting Manager for the RISE program at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. As research liaison, she is responsible for communicating the impact of the RISE program in order to tell the transformative story of individuals, organizations and communities who operate within high stress, high stakes industries. She works closely with the Integrated Research Team lead by primary investigator, Sat Bir S. Khalsa, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School; Jeff Dusek, PhD, Director of Research at Connor Integrative Health Network, University Hospitals; and Natalie Trent, PhD, Project Lead and Research Scientist for Kripalu. Together, they gather both qualitative and quantitative evidence of the RISE program and continue to add new findings to over 10 years of yoga-based research.

Designing Compassionate Classrooms: Case Studies of Educators Who Are Hacking School Culture
Ellen Feig Gray, Parent with Perspective

How might we define the characteristics of a compassionate educator? What do compassionate classrooms look like? How are teachers “hacking” school culture by using empathy-building tools, practices, and protocols to inspire positive change? How might they cultivate self-compassion in their own lives?

This poster session showcases stories of teachers who are consciously crafting their classroom culture by using easy-to-implement, evidence-based, human-centered, strengths-focused approaches that cultivate empathy and compassion in their students and themselves. Rather than blindly lifting and dropping prefabricated practices and curriculum onto their students, these game-changing classroom-based leaders are inspired to understand the needs and interests of those they serve, by practicing empathy and experimenting with creative ways to define, prototype, test, and iterate and refine solutions to the challenges their students face.

About Ellen Feig Gray

Ellen Feig Gray, MA, CiPP, founder of Parent with Perspective, is a parent educator and positive psychology practitioner who is passionate about cultivating the well-being of families, children, and teens. Through consultations, workshops, and programs, she shares findings and insights from the science of happiness, the wisdom traditions, and her own life to support those who raise and educate young people. Coauthor of Hacking School Culture: Designing Compassionate Classrooms, Ellen earned a Master’s in Psychology and completed courses towards a PhD from University of Michigan, and also holds a Bachelor’s in Psychology from Brooklyn College of CUNY, where she graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She received her Certificate in Positive Psychology from Wholebeing Institute, and is also a certified Let Your Yoga Dance instructor.

SongwritingWith:Soldiers—the Positive Story,Latest Research and Next Big Goals
Mary Judd, SongwritingWith:Soldiers

SongwritingWith:Soldiers (SW:S) pairs professional songwriters with veterans and military families to turn their experiences into songs. The goals are to help bridge the military-civilian divide and to help relieve the pain, stress, and isolation that so often accompanies military service and the transition home, affecting young and old alike. More than 450 songs have been written to date.

Applying evidence-based positive psychology applications—such as focus on and use of strengths, expressions of gratitude, creating micro-moments of connection, and peak-end theory—can be challenging with groups who have suffered and are often jaded. Yet a small pilot study inspired by the program’s dramatic results yielded proof of its effectiveness. Conducted by researchers at Harvard Mass General/Home Base Foundation, the study looked at the effects of collaborative songwriting on veterans with PTSD, focusing on individual two-hour songwriting sessions with an SW:S songwriter for 10 veterans who had previously attended Home Base’s intensive clinical therapy program. Initial results showed that PTSD symptoms had declined by 33 percent one month after the songwriting session, and depressive symptoms had declined by 25 percent.

About Mary Judd

Mary Judd, co-founder of SongwritingWith:Soldiers, specializes in creative programming with an emphasis on positive psychology applications. Known for her ability to identify and creatively build upon strengths, Mary has collaborated with clients including New York State’s Department of Economic Development; MentorCoach; the VIA Institute on Character; the Mayerson Academy; The Happy Movie; Discovery Retreats, and other institutions. She has studied positive psychology with leading researchers, and teaches and writes extensively on the subject for clients including VIA, PsyInsight magazine, and the India Journal of Positive Psychology, where she serves on the editorial board. Mary was asked to serve as a discussion leader for a High-Level UN Meeting on Happiness & Well-Being with experts and leaders from around the world. In 2003, she co-founded the Barn School, an award-winning sustainable agriculture camp for kids that raises funds for local farms and Heifer International. She has earned coaching certifications from Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness, MentorCoach, and others. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Speech–Organizational Communications from the University of Texas at Austin, and teaching certifications in Speech, English, and Spanish. She blends all of this experience in her continual development and delivery of SongwritingWith:Soldiers.

PositiviTeens®: A Case Study in Bringing Together Positive Psychology and Neuroscience for the Digital-Age Student
Sherry Kelly, Mind And Heart Coaching, LLC

Today’s teens are more isolated and marginalized than ever before, even though they may seem “connected” through the Internet and social media. A recent study of more than 4 million children by the University of Michigan found that one in seven had at least one mental health disorder (JAMA, 2019). The National Education Association and American Academy of Pediatrics have published policy research on the alarming link between social media use, video game use, and mental health disorders in school-aged children. The average middle school student in the United States will spend 24 hours per week on their cell phone (University of Michigan, 2019).

How is this impacting the classroom, learning, and the teacher-student relationship? This poster session will outline PositiviTeens®, a workshop that brings together the latest research in neuroscience and positive psychology to better equip teachers and parents to support teens in the digital age.

About Sherry Kelly

Sherry Kelly, PhD, is a clinical neuropsychologist and licensed psychologist who began her career as an educational researcher in 1977 at the University of MInnesota. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Boston University, and her graduate work experience included clinical research in child psychology with Lee Salk and a faculty appointment at Cornell Medical School. Sherry holds multiple Master’s degrees in psychology from New York University and Yeshiva University. She earned her PhD in Clinical Health Psychology from Yeshiva University and completed an APA internship in child-adolescent psychology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. She was a National Institute of Health (NIH/NCI) Fellow at New York Hospital and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where she did her fellowship in Psychology-Oncology/Clinical Neuropsychology from 1998–2001.

Educating lawyers for compassion and courage as well as brains – The Wizard of Oz was right
R. Lisle Baker, Suffolk University Law School

In the movie The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy has three companions who were on quests of their own: The Scarecrow seeking a brain, the Tin Man seeking a heart, and the Lion seeking courage. Much of the law school curriculum is designed for the law student as Scarecrow – to develop the capacity for critical thinking. The curriculum, however, has not given as much attention to the Tin Man or the Lion among law students. This presentation examines ways of educating law students to enhance their strength of compassion not only for their clients but also their adversaries, as well the students’ strength of courage to make that compassion effective, including standing up for their clients in the interests of justice when it might not be popular to do so.

About R. Lisle Baker

R. Lisle Baker is a professor of law at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, where he teaches Positive Psychology for Lawyers and Leadership and Character Strengths. He has published articles on such topics as character and fitness for leadership, designing a positive psychology course for lawyers, learning how to pay attention, and using insights about perception and judgment from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator instrument as an aid to mediation. He is an honors graduate of Williams College and Harvard Law School. In 2015, he earned a Certificate in Positive Psychology at Kripalu, and in 2016, a Master’s degree in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. In 2017, 2018, and 2019, he convened conferences at Suffolk on Integrating Positive Psychology into Legal Education. Professor Baker has also served for over 35 years as an elected member of the Newton, Massachusetts, City Council, including 6 years as Council President.

Physical Movement and Learning – An Exploration of Embodied Learning
Karen S. Whelan-Berry, Wholebeing Institute

In higher education, adult training, workshops, and conferences, much learning happens with participants seated and little movement, other than “bio breaks”, creating an emphasis on our mind and cognitive learning. Active learning strategies and experiential exercises have and continue to positively impact learning. But, beyond learning specific skills, intentional use of movement as part of learning design and delivery, remains less common. Embodied learning (or cognition) describes how in learning, bodily movement can be low or high, and integration of the task can be incidental or integrated.

This poster session shares data from two cases – a certificate program in positive psychology and a graduate leadership course – and their use of physical movement and embodied learning. In the certificate program, multiple types of movement are used, and movement is associated with transformational learning. In the graduate leadership course, intentional use of body-mind/body-mind connections, and performance- or action-based learning, such as leading an improv scenario, significantly deepened curiosity and learning about leading and the development of the students’ own leadership style. The poster offers tips for the use of embodied learning.

About Dr.Karen Whelan-Berry

Dr. Karen Whelan-Berry, a positive psychology scholar/practitioner with extensive corporate and higher education experience, focuses on research and practice at the intersection of ideal self and team(s), and their strengths, effectiveness, performance excellence and resilience; and related individual and organizational positive change. Karen is passionate about instructional design and delivery that cultivates immediate and long-term skills, habits, and practices.