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Alumni Stories

Alumni of the Master of Applied Positive Psychology program are transforming their communities and their workplaces around the world in a myriad of roles. Previous graduates are improving the effectiveness of project teams and managers, encouraging patient self-efficacy and using positive interventions in healthcare settings, creating strategies as human resources professionals, leading educational institutions and fostering positive peacekeeping in the United Nations. Read our alumni stories below to learn more about how the Master of Applied Positive Psychology program has helped students create fully engaging lives and careers.

  • PhD student


    PhD, Management and Organizations, The University of Michigan Ross School of Business (forthcoming); Master of Applied Positive Psychology, The University of Pennsylvania, ‘14; BA, Economics, Dartmouth College, ‘12

    “I tried studying wellbeing in an Economics Department, and I felt like an outsider,” shares Eunbit Hwang, a native of Seoul, South Korea. She’s also an aspiring children’s book author with a love of sharp cheddar cheese and a mind for empirical data. “When I joined this Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) community, I finally felt that I belonged somewhere.” Her eclectic interests and enthusiasm for research suited the MAPP program’s combination of rigorous academics and people-oriented ethos.

    Eunbit was encouraged to study positive psychology at the graduate level after attending a World Forum in India hosted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Academics from around the globe gathered to share their work on how wellbeing impacts public policy. “I knew Penn was where I wanted to pursue the degree because the students are from such diverse backgrounds. I thought that it would be an excellent way for me to broaden my horizons.”

    Diving head first into her studies, Eunbit dedicated herself full-time to the degree. “I have endearing memories of Philadelphia,” she recalls, “Some days I would just drop by Marty Seligman’s office and say ‘Hi.’”

    As she became immersed in her research, Eunbit knew she wanted to pursue a doctorate, “For my capstone, I did an empirical study because I was ready for a PhD. I looked at the relationships between wellbeing, self-acceptance and acceptance of others, and how those three constructs correlated based on cultural backgrounds.”

    Before starting her PhD this fall at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, she’s spending her time in Seoul with her beloved dogs and writing music, “I want to produce a piece of creative work that captures the story of my 20s. I am 27 right now, and I know I won’t have this much free time soon,” she laughs.

    Though a PhD is demanding, Eunbit feels prepared for the challenge, “Coming to Penn was one of the best decisions I ever made because it shaped the trajectory of my life.” And as for her work, “I want my research to be heard. I want to do research related to peoples’ lives or workplaces. In that sense, I want to be a socially responsible scholar.”

  • Senior HR Director, Bertelsmann—Guetersloh, Germany; Author, License for Satisfaction


    Master of Applied Positive Psychology, the University of Pennsylvania, ‘14; PhD, Management Sciences, EBS University of Business and Law, ‘10; Diploma in Psychology, at University of Muenster, ‘04

    “I advise my clients to actively manage their energy and emotions during the work day. For me, it’s cat videos that do the trick,” laughs Dr. Nico Rose, Senior Human Resources Director for Europe’s largest media company, Bertelsmann. Though Nico’s perspective may seem unique in the corporate world, it’s exactly what made him the perfect fit for the Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program.

    Always one to defy expectations, Nico commuted between the Cologne region of Germany and Philadelphia for the MAPP program. Though the travel was daunting at times, Nico reveled in the experience and said Penn “felt a little like being at Hogwarts.”

    In his capstone, Nico proposed a scientific measurement for what he calls “Self Permission”—the concept in which people believe they deserve or don’t deserve happiness. In his work he found that “there is always a strong focus on the will. But what if a person thinks or feels he is not allowed or doesn’t deserve to be successful? What does that do to you?”

    These findings, as well as the knowledge he acquired from MAPP’s world-renowned faculty found their way into his professional coaching practice. He also discovered that MAPP helped him become a better leader at Bertelsmann.

    The most special moment in the program came for Nico when his high school psychology teacher attended his graduation. “I was an exchange student in the US in ‘94 and ’95 in York, PA. I really connected very well with my psychology teacher and when I came back home I told my parents that I wanted to become a psychologist. Their jaws dropped a little bit,” he remembers, “That experience gave my life a new direction.”

    Now, Nico shares his research in the field of positive psychology through his blog, Mappalicious: The German Side of Positive Psychology. When he’s not writing, coaching or traveling the world and visiting MAPP colleagues, he spends his time at home with his wife, children and two cats (of course). As for future MAPP scholars, Nico shares, “Some things you can only grasp and cherish afterwards and see how the whole year came together.”

  • Consultant in Leadership Communications and Best Selling Author; Founder, The Silver Realigning


    Master of Applied Positive Psychology, The University of Pennsylvania, ‘14; Bachelor of Philosophy, Thomas Jefferson College, ‘74

    A co-author of The New York Times best seller Succeed On Your Own Terms and president of a consulting firm, Patrick Sweeney’s career revolved around helping others reach their potential. Joining the MAPP community was the moment that Patrick took a chance on exploring his own potential more deeply. And he’s never looked back.

    Being a self-described “perpetual student,” Patrick soaked up every opportunity he had in the program to collaborate with his peers and learn from the researchers at the top of the field. “It was one of the most fortunate parts of my life—to be able to connect with so many bright, caring people.”

    For his capstone, Patrick researched and developed The Silver Realigning—a coaching practice to help Baby Boomers in transition. “Some of the people I work with have decided that there has to be something more and now is the time; while others have lost their jobs or experienced a major life change. They are all trying to figure out, ‘What’s next?’ I help them focus on their strengths, interests, potential and passion—so they can create new possibilities for themselves.”

    So how can prospective students make MAPP happen for them? Patrick advises, “Be open to those profound messages that draw you like a magnet, and speak to you very strongly. They can be truly life changing.”

    Now a member of the MAPP alumni network, Patrick continues to join forces with his cohort and fellow graduates by attending MAPP summits and working together on new ventures. “Part of what MAPP gave me was the perspective and confidence to take to heart the professional advice I was sharing with others—and to explore new possibilities for myself. I am eternally grateful for that.”

  • Vice President of High School Programs, Universidad TecMilenio


    Master of Applied Positive Psychology, The University of Pennsylvania ‘15; Bachelor of International Relations, Master of Communications, PhD in Humanities, Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey ’93-’11

    “In 2012, we started looking at a new educational model. We asked what was most important to students, parents and employers, and what they wanted in their lives. The answer was to be happy, to have happy kids or happy employees. We thought as a university we should approach the topic in a very serious way,” shares Rosalinda Ballesteros Valdes, Vice President of High School Programs for Universidad TecMilenio. After one phone call from the Provost to Martin Seligman, MAPP’s Education Director James Pawelski was soon on a plane to Monterrey to consult with her team.

    After collaborating with James, Rosalinda enrolled in MAPP and began integrating her research into her work. Though the commute from Mexico wasn’t easy, Rosalinda used the experience to expand her network. “I took the opportunity to fly in early one time and see the city, which is wonderful. I also extended my weekends in New York and Connecticut to meet the friends and families of my classmates, which was an amazing experience.”

    For her capstone, Rosalinda developed a career advising model that integrates meaning into the future goals of high school students. “Instead of thinking about where you want to go to school or what you want to major in, you’re thinking about what your purpose in life is.” Her plan helps students know more about themselves, learn how to set targets and stay on-task when an achievement is long-term.

    At the college level, Universidad TecMilenio now requires all of its students to take an introductory positive psychology course. For Rosalinda’s high school program, positive psychology interventions and exercises are built into the curriculum. For example, there is a popular music appreciation course that was developed through the lens of positive humanities. Rosalinda reports that, “Participants have more emotional intelligence and can understand emotions in a different way after taking these courses.”

    Rosalinda’s model, much like MAPP, uses self-reflection for growth. “At the end of the semester, we ask our students to discuss what increased their wellbeing, how they felt and where their passions were during an activity. We have a life and career planning course at the end of junior year. They go back to their reflections portfolio from previous years, and that’s where they can discover what’s important to them and what gives them meaning.”

    Looking back, Rosalinda found her most meaningful moments at Penn were those in which she connected with fellow MAPP students. Whether it was going out for dinner and salsa dancing with friends or speaking to alumni at the annual Summit, Rosalinda truly made the most of her relationships. “The alumni community is amazing,” she shares, “It’s one of the best support networking groups that I’ve ever seen.”

MAPP alumni directory

Many Master of Positive Psychology graduates are listed on our MAPP Alumni Directory. If you are looking for speakers, authors, teachers, consultants, coaches, therapists, or a variety of other roles, use this resource to get in touch.

Capstone Projects


The capstone project is a culminating experience, allowing you to integrate and apply what you've learned during the program.

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Inside the Program

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Our hybrid format allows students to come from all over the world!

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Am I Eligible to Apply?

Admissions and Eligibility

Admission to the master's program is highly selective. Learn more about applicant qualifications.

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