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Service Learning Projects

In MAPP’s course Applying Positive Interventions in Institutions, students in the Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania complete service learning projects in partnership with nonprofits from around the world. Working in small groups, each service learning project team studies the structure, mission and goals of a nonprofit organization and develops a plan to advance the organization’s goals through the application of positive psychology. The service learning projects give MAPP students the opportunity to apply their learning to real-world contexts and allow worthy nonprofit organizations who might not have the funds to hire positive psychology consultants to benefit from cutting-edge research in the field.

If you are interested in exploring more service learning projects, you can visit Penn’s Scholarly Commons website to browse project abstracts or download full projects.

Service learning projects completed in 2018 include:

This paper describes both the theoretical underpinnings and an action plan for building resilience as requested by teachers in a diverse, low-income public high school in Patterson, New Jersey, United States. The authors define and describe widely agreed upon protective factors of resilience, and further operationalize the components into a set of activities for both teachers and students to engage toward increasing resilience. A three-stage learning process is presented for teachers to learn and embed the constructs in their own lives, as well as share with the students. A detailed “learning journey” is appended to describe in detail the specific evidence-based activities intended to target a critical subset of three protective factors: connection, optimism, and self-efficacy. A measurement plan is also provided to assess growth in both students and faculty.

See the full service learning project on Penn's Scholarly Commons website.

The 1214 Foundation’s character building (ARC) and performing arts (NewArts) programs were founded to provide Newtown’s youth with an empowered path forward following the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012. This paper is intended to dovetail 1214’s existing programs with the empirically-based tenants of positive psychology. First, the situation analysis outlines the structure of the ARC program and 1214’s place in the nonprofit sector. Second, the literature review builds an empirically sound Theory of Change (TOC) for the ARC Program. This section aligns ARC’s goals of recognizing strengths, regulating emotion and building confidence with the empirical constructs of self-awareness, self-regulation and self-efficacy. These constructs are then organized as pathways linked to the outcomes of grit, resilience and post-traumatic growth, and the ultimate impact of flourishing. Lastly, the application plan outlines an assessment protocol that, along with the Theory of Change, will help 1214 both deliver their programs more effectively and communicate their impact more compellingly.

See the full service learning project on Penn's Scholarly Commons website.

Lawyers are known to suffer from an increased risk of substance abuse and mental health issues. There is evidence that symptoms of these issues may arise years earlier in law school where students often suffer from psychological distress, anxiety and alienation. The Penn Law Center on Professionalism (COP) seeks to help students at the University of Pennsylvania Law School better navigate law school and their transition into the workforce by increasing their resilience, confidence and engagement. Informed by current psychological literature, this team has proposed four positive interventions to help Penn Law students reinterpret and manage stress, more objectively assess their current situation, and bolster their intrinsic motivation. This team recommends a brief social-belonging letter writing intervention, a mindfulness and mindset workshop, a workshop exploring explanatory styles and resilience and a poster campaign aimed at addressing imposter syndrome. They suggest measuring results through mixed qualitative and quantitative metrics and believe that developing these skills will enable students to flourish both in law school and their future careers.

See the full service learning project on Penn's Scholarly Commons website.

This community project aims to improve the well-being of those who live and work in Midland, Michigan by improving the quality of relationships in the community. This team uses the galvanizing framework of a campaign which focuses on creating high-quality connections in the community for everyone and to end loneliness (Project Zero: Nobody with Nobody). Using a multi-phase implementation plan, this campaign begins with the creation of a well-being committee and three micro-interventions: goal mapping, a psychological safety exercise and one-on-one discussions called “Local Cafes.” These interventions draw on the power of high-quality connections and positive emotions to support sustainable and positive community change. Each intervention has a step-by-step guide included for ease of application. From these initial interventions, the team recommends that Local Café discussions be held in the community which would eventually inform an Appreciative Inquiry Summit with the entire community. The team hopes that this process can be used not only as template for Midland but for other communities around the world who want to enhance the quality of their relationships.

See the full service learning project on Penn's Scholarly Commons website.

Positive education, a unique blend of academic learning and positive psychology theory on well-being, is becoming increasingly important in today’s educational system, as mental disorders like anxiety and depression continue to increase in schools. Located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, The Shipley School, an independent PK-12 school, is an early adopter of positive education. In August 2017, Shipley led a three-day positive psychology retreat for all of its colleagues (teachers and staff); 25 self-selected colleagues, known as trained trainers, received an additional two days of training to guide them toward becoming thought leaders at Shipley. Preliminary evidence suggests that students’ perceptions of their teachers’ well-being may be associated with student well-being at Shipley. Additionally, the positive psychology retreat seems to have enhanced positive relationships among colleagues while decreasing loneliness and negative emotions. Per colleague feedback, active constructive responding, gratitude, mindfulness, optimism/thinking traps and strengths appear to be the most salient skills taught at the retreat. As a result, an onboarding plan has developed recommendations for new colleagues encompassing the teaching of these five skills in small-group settings led by the trained trainers. This team believes that Shipley is well on its way to becoming a leading model for positive education.

See the full service learning project on Penn's Scholarly Commons website.

This team applies principles of positive organizational psychology to a hospitality inn and resort that seeks to focus on “positive hospitality”—the provision of immersive positive education and well-being to guests and employees alike. The Shawnee Institute aspires to serve as a bridge, linking the science of well-being with organizations across the globe. Integrating well-being throughout the Institute’s employees is desired to boost both employee and visitor experiences and distinguish the Institute from other resorts in the region as a destination, and as an employer. This team proposes an approach to the broad engagement with organizational well-being, discussing the role of cultural change and the needs of both full-time and seasonal employees. They recommend the use of the psychological capital framework to measure and improve well-being across all employees, and provide an implementation plan that includes immersive education for managers, a holistic appreciative inquiry kick-off for all employees and well-being implementation exercises for on-boarding new employees. This work can assist other organizations, particularly those in the hospitality industry, that seek to improve the well-being of a diverse employee base.

See the full service learning project on Penn's Scholarly Commons website.

Supported by a situational analysis and review of positive psychological literature, this paper outlines an application plan to support GateWay Community College’s “experiential learning with a purpose” vision which focuses on infusing meaning into students’ career development and learning. This vision was articulated by Kerry Sanderson, Director of Career Services, and Jessica Brosilo, Service Learning Center Coordinator, in the form of three guiding principles for the team’s work: 1) accessing large student populations, 2) developing students' personal meaning and understanding of purpose through career goals, and 3) cultivating a broader view of success beyond career goals. Future-mindedness and self-efficacy emerged as key pillars in an integrative system for building meaning, along with the importance of persistence which surfaced through our discussions with Sanderson and Brosilo and the team’s review of the Maricopa County Community College District and GateWay Community College’s joint strategic direction on student support goals. Their application plan rests on these three pillars: future-mindedness, self-efficacy and meaning—with persistence running as a key thread throughout. The plan resides on three key processes: 1) administering a foundational, future-oriented writing exercise for incoming students that also cultivates foundations for self-efficacy and goal setting; 2) administering a growth mindset, belonging and self-efficacy intervention focused on messaging and environmental for incoming students, and 3) ongoing programming for students that supports purpose and meaning as well as student persistence.

See the full service learning project on Penn's Scholarly Commons website.

Capstone projects

Capstones

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

Read about Capstone Projects >

Student & alumni stories

Student & Alumni Stories

“Coming to Penn was one of the best decisions I ever made because it shaped the trajectory of my life.”

-- Eunbit Hwang, MAPP '14

Read about Eunbit >

Am I eligible to apply?

Admissions and Eligibility

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

See Admissions and Eligibility >

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