Area Vice President, Customer Success, BetterUp
Master of Applied Positive Psychology, University of Pennsylvania ’20
Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies, Business Administration Minor, University of Richmond ’12
“I was blown away by the idea that there was a science behind well-being,” says Victoria Roebuck (Master of Applied Positive Psychology ’20). As an early-career manager at a marketing analytics startup, Victoria was curious about human potential and how to coach people to grow and improve. Through Penn’s Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP), she gained insight into human flourishing (and a new career).
Victoria first learned about the MAPP program when her company held a well-being workshop. “The facilitator shared that she was a MAPP alum, and even brought some of her program coursework into the workshop,” Victoria says. “That took me on a journey to learn more about positive psychology.”
While she had a gut feeling about pursuing the MAPP degree, Victoria spent a few more years pondering her next move. “Deciding to apply for MAPP was scary because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with it,” she admits, noting in her industry an MBA is the typical choice for career advancement.
As she reflected on her goals, she began to see that her heart wasn’t in the work she was doing. “I love the scrappiness and the teamwork environment of working at a startup,” she says, “and every job led to the next promotion, but I found myself not enjoying the work at all. I realized that the people part of my job was what I was good at and what energized me.” Convinced it was time to explore the correlation between personal well-being and work performance, Victoria enrolled in the MAPP program in fall 2019.
She quickly bonded with her classmates. “We call it the MAPP Magic,” she says. “The program does such a good job bringing us together early on and making deep connections.” As an example, Victoria recalls the first on-site intensive weekend. “We did a Positive Introductions exercise that really allowed us to be seen and to see other people for who they are,” she says. Far beyond a standard ice-breaker, Positive Introductions challenge each student to share a story about themselves at their very best. “It was really powerful to listen to people share their stories, and then hold space for the rest of us to repeat back to them the strengths we spotted, in a way that makes the storyteller feel very seen, respected, and unique.”
A few weeks into the program, Victoria experienced another miraculous moment at the annual MAPP Summit—a weekend of connecting and sharing ideas with alumni, researchers, and other professionals. She attended a presentation by two guest speakers from the Human Transformation Platform, BetterUp, CEO Alexi Robichaux and MAPP ’17 alum Chad Thomas. Throughout their presentation, she felt the same gut feeling about BetterUp that she had about MAPP.
“I fell in love with the company,” she says. “I went up to the CEO and said, ‘I had chills the entire time you were speaking and I’m definitely going to apply for a job.’” She spoke more with Chad over the weekend and applied soon after. “I started working there in January 2020, so I entered the spring semester of the MAPP program and started a new full-time job at the same time. It was definitely a challenge, but it was also super fulfilling. And I’ve been with BetterUp ever since,” she says, three years later.
In addition to networking opportunities throughout the year, the program offers MAPPsters (as the students call themselves) the academic and practical learning they need to bring positive psychology into their professional and personal lives. “Each week of the program really built off the previous. The fall semester is very focused on research and theory and then the spring is more application based,” she says. “The A is for applied, so the program is not just ‘Sit here and study it,’ but, ‘What are you going to do in your communities to bring the science to life?’”
For the spring semester service learning project, Victoria and three other students were partnered with the organization Survivors of Suicide Loss (SOSL). “SOSL focuses on supporting people who have lost a loved one to suicide. There's a lot of programming for immediate support after a loss, but there’s not a lot of research around how to help people rebuild a life of flourishing long term,” she says. Her cohort of four did so well with the project, their work was included in the book Rebuilding a Life of Flourishing: After a Suicide Loss, which was written by the organization’s executive director, Joyce Bruggeman.
For her capstone, which students complete over the summer, Victoria departed from a professional-related project in favor of a passion project. “What I had been planning to do for my capstone during the fall semester while working at my previous company no longer made sense,” she explains, “so a few weeks before my capstone proposal was due I had to pivot.” She decided to work with a friend and illustrator on a children’s book about positive psychology techniques like resilience and managing stress. “It was a fun and fulfilling project that brought together some of the things that I have personally struggled with,” she says. She hopes to publish the book one day.
Victoria’s journey with MAPP didn’t end after she graduated in August 2020. Several weeks later, she returned as an assistant instructor. She has helped teach MAPP 6030 Perspectives on Well-Being in the spring and MAPP 7140 Applying Positive Interventions in Institutions in the fall, enjoying the opportunity to support students through their MAPP journeys while continuing to learn from their new perspectives.
While MAPP helped Victoria pivot professionally, she also attributes personal gains to the program. “I grew more as a person than I was expecting, and I grew in a way that I didn’t know I needed. MAPP helped make me a better person.”
She still keeps her personal mission statement, developed during the program, on her desk. It reads: Fuel my tank so I can show up for others. “I’m a natural giver and I get energized by helping other people, but my mission statement sits with me every day as a reminder of how important it is to take care of yourself before you can take care of others,” she says.