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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 2021 include:

The Positive Pen Pal Program is an intergenerational initiative designed to increase the well-being of senior and youth residents at Education Based Housing, Inc.’s (EBH) affordable housing communities through communication exchanges involving writing about positive events and experiences, art, and music. The pilot program involves a month-long, bi-directional letter writing exchange about topics such as gratitude, meaning, and purpose between ten pairs of residents, with each pair comprised of a senior resident and a youth resident. This project provides a stand-alone playbook for EBH’s Resident Engagement Specialists. The playbook includes a brief introduction to well-being; sample recruitment letters for seniors and youth; sample instruction letters for seniors and youth; sample prompts for writing about positive events and experiences, art, and music; sample marketing information to solicit sponsorship from community businesses; measurement tools to assess aspects of well-being of the participants; and survey questions to assess the impact of the program on the participants. The implications of this work include enhanced understanding of the interplay among positive psychology, the humanities, and intergenerational interventions in affordable housing communities. Beneficially, this intervention is low-resource and expandable across multiple humanities domains and residential communities.

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

In partnership with Russell Sage College (RSC), the following service-learning project outlines our situation analysis, literature review, and application plan to implement strategies and resources to enable RSC’s strategic initiative toward becoming a college known for well-being through an initiative called Thrive@Russell Sage. Leveraging research in positive psychology, and best practices from other colleges and universities, our team developed a Thrive “playbook” designed to support RSC’s ability to 1) communicate and engage the RSC community, 2) expand Thrive through the curriculum beginning with RSC 101, an introductory freshmen course, and 3) enhance and expand Thrive through appreciative inquiry. We suggest measuring Thrive@Russell Sage impact through an annual well-being survey of students and faculty and use survey data as input to evolve their strategic plan.

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

Midland County, Michigan, is a progressive community in which positive psychology contributes to the flourishing of its citizens. They have formed a steering committee consisting of numerous organizations that serve people living with disabilities. The purpose of this project was to develop a collective model of success for individuals with disabilities that would enable agencies supporting this population to effectively partner and build flourishing for this community. This project identified four key pillars that support thriving for individuals with disabilities: character strengths, self-determination, mattering, and belonging. Through a series of 15-minute workshops facilitated by a steering committee member, they will understand the construct of each pillar, have the opportunity to practice specific interventions in their personal and professional lives, and develop ways to implement the key concepts within their agencies to serve the individuals with disabilities.

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

Burnout among healthcare workers is a particular kind of occupational stress characterized by emotional fatigue, loss of energy, and withdrawal from work. A character strengths-based intervention was designed to mitigate the effects of burnout upon medical trainees at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. Over the course of a year, pediatric anesthesia fellows will participate in four training sessions in character strengths with the intention of giving them increased tools for personal support and improved team dynamics. An introduction to character strengths, appreciating character strengths, mindfulness and character strengths, and character strengths at work and at home were the topics covered. The goal is to improve well-being by better appreciating the strengths in both themselves and others. Results of the intervention were assessed by self-report.

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

The Penn ONESTOP Service Center at the University of Pennsylvania is facing numerous challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, workplace environment changes, workload increase, role reclassification, personal pandemic-related challenges, and racial injustice. Penn ONESTOP seeks to increase resilience. Informed by current positive psychological literature, we propose three interventions to help Penn ONESTOP systematically develop the character strengths awareness and literacy, develop a set of cultural core values to guide and unify workplace behavior, and build resilience. We recommend activities including character strengths conversations, strengths-spotting and recognition, a cultural core values workshop with positive introductions, and a series of resilience micro-lessons to put into practice. We suggest quantitatively measuring results with a culture and climate and engagement survey. Building a foundation of character strengths and shared core values will enhance and support improving resilience in Penn ONESTOP staff, setting them on the path to flourishing.

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

Service learning project location map

This map shows the locations of the service learning projects in our database. You can click on the title of the project to get more information.

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Student & alumni stories

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

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