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 2023 include:

Atlas Service Corps, Inc. (Atlas Corps) supports a global community of social change leaders dedicated to driving social and cultural change by providing world-class training, experiences, and opportunities. Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, what was originally developed as a temporary virtual leadership program due to restricted travel has now become a core program offering that they hope to expand from 300 to over 5,000 annual participants in the next few years. One of the challenges that social change leaders face is burnout due to long hours, limited resources, and complex problems. To support Atlas Corps’ social change leader community, a series of positive psychology lessons were developed to help them learn about high-quality connections, positive stress response, and thinking traps and apply learned skills in practice. These lessons were specifically designed for their virtual leadership program, which could then be applied toward other populations, including in-person program participants, alumni, and Atlas Corps staff themselves. The implications and desired outcomes include fostering improved connections virtually and in person, enhancing resilience and stress management strategies, and ultimately preventing burnout, particularly within the context of a diverse population of nonprofit leaders and the organizations they serve.

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

The RAISE Resilience Program is dedicated to enhancing the resilience of caregivers of children with hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus, a chronic neurological condition that often requires numerous brain surgeries, is life-altering for both the individual diagnosed and their support system. Research suggests that caregivers are particularly affected, experiencing lower levels of resilience and symptoms of post-traumatic stress. We partnered with the Hydrocephalus Association (HA), a nonprofit dedicated to support, education, and advocacy for families with hydrocephalus to create a resilience program for such caregivers. RAISE is a six-module skills training program that will build upon HA’s current online caregiver support groups, covering the topics of Resilience, Agency, Intentional Thinking, Strengths, and Engagement. Within these modules, participants will learn about the protective factors of resilience, agency, and self-efficacy, thinking traps and reframing strategies, and the VIA character strengths. The group provides community and accountability to aid caregivers in the integration of these strategies into their everyday lives. This project includes six fully developed presentations, a facilitator script, and handouts. The RAISE Resilience Program provides preventative, cost-effective, and scalable support for an at-risk population of caregivers.

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

The DARS Well-Being Roadmap is a multifaceted initiative to boost the well-being and resilience of staff at the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitation Services (DARS). The program includes a research-informed workbook that guides participants through the BET I CAN (Behaviors, Emotions, Thoughts, Interactions, Context, Awareness, and Next Steps) framework and activities to facilitate personal, organizational, and social/community change. The roadmap also incorporates positive psychology interventions suitable for individual, dyadic, or team participation and includes measurement tools for evaluating progress over time. The Well-Being Roadmap offers a comprehensive approach to understanding the interplay between psychological and sociological factors that contribute to justice and flourishing in the context of government agencies.

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

Read more about the project on the LPS News page: Learning through service: How MAPP students created a roadmap to resilience for public servants

MindCatcher Education (MC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of hopelessness in under-resourced learning spaces and fostering social-emotional growth and leadership development for students and educators of color. Our cohort from the Master of Applied Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania collaborated with MC to strengthen and expand their Young People Lead (YPL) program. Our cohort conducted a situation analysis and literature review and collaborated with MC to design monthly training sessions that incorporate Appreciative Inquiry, character strengths, ikigai, and job crafting. These interventions aim to redesign pedagogy at partnering schools, build student engagement, and reduce burnout in educators of color to strengthen YPL. The training coincides with the “Cohort Experience” training for educational leaders from August 2023 through April 2024 and includes on-campus demonstrations by site leaders for teachers and students.

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

This service learning project reports on an intervention designed and conducted by the Pink Team of the Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. This intervention was conducted at the Positive Psychology Research Center (PPRC) at Tsinghua University in Mainland, China. The project aimed to improve the learning quality of Global Massive Open Online Course (GMOOC) program by transforming it from a teacher-centered, one-way xMOOC model to a more interactive and relational cMOOC model through enhancing connections and relationships among the participants. This project comprises three phases. In part one, we performed a thorough situation analysis, profiling our partner (Tsinghua University PPRC) and the industry sector they are operating. We detailed the PPRC’s positive psychology GMOOC, analyzed its strengths and weaknesses, and identified areas for improvement, which was to enhance relationships and connections. In part two Literature Review, we reviewed theoretical frameworks relevant to relationships. We identified three key concepts to guide our design: i) high-quality connections (HQCs), ii) mattering, and iii) mutual value theory. In part three, we generated an application plan that outlines six evidence-informed activities with the purpose of enhancing online relationships and community-building. Finally, a detailed step-by-step handbook on how to implement these activities is also provided at the end.

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

The legal profession is facing a mental health crisis, with lawyers experiencing higher rates of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse compared to other professions. This alarming trend highlights the need for targeted interventions to promote mental well-being and resilience in the legal community. In response, the Utah State Bar seeks to improve attorney well-being through the New Lawyer Training Program (NLTP) by leveraging research on positive psychology interventions and high-quality connections. This paper begins with a comprehensive situation analysis of the Bar's needs, followed by an in-depth literature review on positive psychology interventions, high-quality connections, and research on attorney well-being. Based on these findings, a 30-minute e-learning Train-the-Trainer (TTT) module targeting mentorship in the NLTP is proposed to promote the flourishing of Utah lawyers by fostering high-quality connections. The paper presents four positive interventions aimed at promoting high-quality connections in the early stages of mentor-mentee relationships, along with a storyboard for an e-learning module, and a detailed planning to produce it.

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

This paper describes the development and implementation of a positive psychology curriculum for high-performing 5th-12th grade students. These students attend Roberto Clemente School No. 8, an inner-city school in the Rochester City School District, in Rochester New York, and are supported by the local Rotary Club scholarship program. Our project aimed to enhance the overall well-being among these students by integrating evidence-based principles of positive psychology into their educational experience. We conducted a situational analysis of the school district and the role of the Rochester Rotary Club in supporting district students through their scholarship program. A comprehensive literature review was carried out to inform the design of age-appropriate materials and modules. Our collaboration with the Rochester Rotary Club facilitated the integration of the positive psychology curriculum into the school's monthly meetings between the students (scholars) and their Rotarian mentors. The curriculum consists of 10 distinct modules on a two-year rotating cycle, addressing topics such as goal setting, resilience, and character strengths. The aim is to empower students with the tools and knowledge necessary to foster their personal development and well-being, alongside academic achievement. The paper offers insights into the process of designing, implementing, and sustaining the positive psychology curriculum, highlighting the vital role of community partnerships in supporting such initiatives. The findings from this project have the potential to inform future educational practices, as well as contribute to the growing body of research on the benefits of positive psychology in educational settings.

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

This paper proposes a training toolkit for facilitators from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) on how to build high-quality connections (HQCs) through small group discussions to enhance the well-being of the cystic fibrosis (CF) community at scale. The relevance of initiatives for connection and relationship building is paramount to the CFF because people with CF tend to be isolated as a mechanism to prevent infections. We propose that HQCs, which are short moments characterized by shared mutuality, vitality, and positive regard, are an effective tool for facilitators to rapidly foster a sense of belonging during short, small group discussions. Our training toolkit helps the Connection and Support team at the CFF equip facilitators in three categories: high-level facilitation meta-skills, powerful beginnings and endings for sessions, and interventions that can be used during a session to deepen connections. The Connection and Support team is planning to incorporate the toolkit in their updated facilitator training. Applying HQCs in small group discussions within the CFF may increase the well-being of the facilitators, people with CF, and potentially their caregivers.

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

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