Capstones - 2018

By Adam Burgoon

This paper outlines a novel theoretical framework intended to act as a bridge to the “promised land.” Originally a religious reference, the promised landis now generalized to mean “something and especially a place or condition believed to promise final satisfaction or realization of hopes” (Merriam-Webster, 2018). Positive psychology and positive organizational scholarship have accomplished much, including the memorialization of aspects of such a promised land, but they have not yet effectively engineered a bridge that enables people, and society as a whole, to confidently and consistently cross into the promised land. In this paper, Adam describes five design challenges for building such a bridge and addresses each of them with a design principle capable of overcoming the design challenge in question. Together, these five design principles compose a theoretical framework—the engineering blueprint for a bridge to the promised land. The fifth and final design principle is a specific bridging formula that paves the way for mass exodus to the promised land. Lastly, Adam describes an example of the bridging formula that is currently underway and proposes ways to accelerate such examples so that the novel theoretical framework contained herein, unlike much of academic theory, need not remain theoretical.

By Marianna Graziosi

This capstone seeks to further what is known about the complex emotion of awe. In most studies on awe, the stimuli used to elicit the emotion involves nature, music, space, or grand theories—but awe elicited by the actions of other people has generally not been studied. The current study explores whether awe can be elicited in close interpersonal relationships and how this experience may be distinct from awe elicited by other stimuli. This capstone begins by exploring awe in existing psychological literature, focusing on findings related to awe in the interpersonal domain. Then, an empirical study (N = 636) on awe is described. Using both quantitative and qualitative approaches, this mixed methods study found empirical support for the claim that awe is elicited by close relationships, referred to here as “interpersonal awe.” Interpersonal awe seems to sit somewhere between the experience of awe in nature and general positivity, as revealed by significant differences in ratings of awe between all three conditions. Qualitative analyses revealed that interpersonal awe was defined by themes of virtue or excellence of character. Interpersonal awe is positioned as a distinct form of emotional experience, distinguished from related states of admiration and elevation, and, lastly, discussed in terms of the implications of these findings for well-being. Perhaps awe, while an ordinary response to the extraordinary, is also an extraordinary response to the ordinary.

By John Hollway

Like any complex, dynamic system, the American criminal justice system makes mistakes. Unfortunately, criminal justice organizations lack a systematic process enabling them to learn from cases of error. Ignoring or minimizing errors erodes organizational legitimacy and contributes to a downward spiral of legal cynicism that increases violent crime. This paper describes the application of positive psychology and procedural justice to restore legal optimism—confidence and trust that the criminal justice system will respond in a just fashion to criminal activity—through Just Culture Event Reviews (JCERs), non-blaming multi-stakeholder reviews of cases where the system has erred. JCERs identify contributing factors to error and generate corrective actions designed to prevent those errors in the future, while accurately allocating systemic, organizational and individual accountability to protect communities and criminal justice professionals. JCERs offer the potential to enhance the legitimacy of participating organizations, generating increased engagement and affiliation with the criminal justice system from community members and criminal justice professionals. Infusing JCERs with specific positive psychological interventions designed to inspire trust, innovation and empathy can optimize their outcomes, creating a newfound legal optimism that has the potential to reduce crime over time.

See John’s full capstone on Penn's Scholarly Commons website.

By Helen Kaye

Burnout first emerged as a subject of research in the United States over forty years ago, but the incidence of burnout worldwide has increased substantially over recent years. Today, burnout is recognized globally as a major concern. Despite the recognition of burnout as a costly and complex challenge to workers’ health and productivity, there is very little understanding of the burnout phenomenon by the public at large. Moreover, despite increasing globalization, and the realities of the multi-cultural workplace, there are very few cross-cultural studies on burnout and positive psychology research on burnout to date has focused on individual, rather than organizational, solutions. This paper’s intent is to begin filling this research gap by analyzing the different predictive factors and paradoxes of burnout from the cross-cultural perspective of France and the United States—two major world economies with distinctly different labor markets—to illustrate the complexity, paradoxes, and misunderstandings surrounding burnout. Based on a review of research on the predictive factors of burnout, as applied to the American and French workplaces, a framework of suggested features is presented for creating sustainable and healthy workplaces by applying models and theories from the field of positive psychology. A call is made for further research on the design of workplaces based on these elements. 

By Henry Richardson

Spirituality and business are generally thought to be in opposition. Spirituality is considered private, sacred, unbounded and religious in nature. Business, on the other hand, is thought to be practical, contained and at times cut-throat. However, spiritual practices like yoga and meditation have shown positive benefits for employees and organizations. In this paper, Henry defines “the spiritual business” and utilizing the definition of spirituality to give insight into how businesses may overlap management and leadership training with spiritual principles. Spirituality, coming from the Latin word spiritus, is defined as that which breathes life into living systems. In this paper, Henry uses this definition to explore how spiritual practices not only breathe life into individual living systems, but also breathe life into larger living systems like organizations. Yoga and mindfulness are ancient techniques that provide frameworks for how to most effectively generate sustainable energy for individuals. Henry applies these same frameworks to show how organizations can effectively breathe life into employees and the entirety of the organization. Henry looks closely at the benefits of yoga, the research on mindfulness and the effectiveness of appreciative inquiry for creating a sense of life for whole system flourishing. Utilizing the analogy that a healthy human is made of a vibrant body, mind and spirit, the spiritual business aims to breathe life into the body, mind and spirit of an organization.

See Henry’s full capstone on Penn's Scholarly Commons website.

Application Overview

Ready to apply?

See deadlines, review our application materials checklist, and get ready to apply.

Student & alumni stories

“The applicability of the program is where its power lies. It's in the name!”
- Martín Blank, MAPP ‘19

Photo of MAPP students on campus

Looking for financial assistance?

Learn about financial aid including MAPP’s fellowship and scholarship opportunities.