Alumni Spotlight
by Suzee Connole

Ryan M. Niemiec, PsyD, education director of the VIA Institute and a WBI faculty member, knows how to spot someone’s strong suit in no time flat. Out of 24 positive character strengths, he was able to identify my number seven (creativity) and number one (judgment) in a single phone conversation.

Ryan’s top two character strengths are hope and love, both of which assist him when teaching courses like WBI’s Mindfulness and Character Strengths in Coaching, which runs from January 23 through March 17, 2017, with live classes held each Wednesday.

“I use my love strength by connecting with other people, loving what I do and doing it the right way,” Ryan says. His hope strength helps him build on what’s created with love. “Hope allows me to take my connections and look at their possibilities,” he says.

Since early 2009, Ryan’s finger has been on the pulse of positive psychology, from the character strengths viewpoint. “When positive psychology came around, I found it to be incredibly holistic. There are themes that are spiritually oriented, some community oriented, and others gut oriented.”

Ryan applies his strengths to addressing each of these themes in his presenting and teaching. His perspective strength comes in handy when conveying the applications of positive psychology and character strengths. For example, his WBI course looks at how character strengths provide a common language for a coach and client to use when building the relationship and working together on self-efficacy and goal attainment.

Part of Ryan’s job is studying how educators and practitioners from around the world are using strengths in their work. “I take concepts and findings surrounding character strengths and distribute them across a variety of platforms. It’s all about passing the information onward,” says Ryan. He works with experts in a number of fields that use character strengths, helping them to access material that will assist them in what they do.

When it comes to engaging people, Ryan says that the most meaningful connections can come in the smallest encounters. “Things unfold in little moments that matter. If you’re open to it, you can be in the right place when you need to be.” Synchronicity and seizing the moment play a big part in connecting with people, personally or professionally, he adds: “Being able to recognize the moment and apply your strengths to it is crucial.”

Ryan M. Niemiec PsyD, education director of the VIA Institute on Character, develops VIA’s courses, reports, and programs, and helps professionals around the world apply character strengths personally and professionally. He is the author of Mindfulness and Character Strengths: A Practical Guide to Flourishing (with 10-track CD) and co-author of Positive Psychology at the Movies and Movies and Mental Illness. Ryan is an award-winning psychologist, certified health coach, international workshop leader, and faculty member for Xavier University in Cincinnati and the University of Pennsylvania. He is the creator of Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice (MBSP), the first structured program for building character strengths, and an adapted MBSP for a track on the web/app-based platform Happify, called “Awaken Your Potential.”

Suzee Connole is the Marketing Assistant for Wholebeing Institute. Part of her role at WBI involves highlighting how alumni, faculty, and guest speakers are taking positive psychology principles and applying them in the communities where they live and work.