Positive psychology has already taken Clayton Rodgers to California, and he expects it take him much further in the future.
Rodgers, a junior psychology major from Springdale, Ark., recently presented a poster at the first Western Positive Psychology Association (WPPA) Conference in Claremont, Calif. Rodgers was one of the few undergraduate students at the conference, which was primarily made up of faculty members and graduate students.
“It was an incredible experience to be with some of the leading experts in the world in the area of positive psychology,” Rodgers said of the conference. “It was nerve-racking and I felt a little out of place at first, but I got so much encouragement and support from the people there. It didn’t take long for me to get comfortable and just take it all in.”
Less than 15 years old, the concept of positive psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.
Among the guests at the conference was Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian-born professor who is considered the father of positive psychology. Now a professor at Claremont Graduate University, he was celebrating his 80th birthday.
Junior psychology major Clayton Rodgers recently presented a poster at the Western Positive Psychology Association Conference in Claremont, Calif. His poster outlined the research Rodgers conducted during a “Positive Psychology Week,” held on campus last spring.
“One of the reasons they started the conference was to honor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi,” Rodgers said. “It was almost surreal to be around all these leading experts. I would go back to my hotel room in the evening and just be amazed that I got to hear from these top minds in the country on cutting-edge research and theories that most people in the world had never heard of.”
Rodgers first got interested in positive psychology during a new class on the subject that was offered by Ozarks Professor of Psychology Karen Jones during the 2014 Spring Semester. As a class project, students presented a “Positive Psychology Week,” on campus during the spring to raise awareness of positive psychology and create activities to boost morale and attitudes of the university community. Among the activities the group presented were, opportunities to write a letters of gratitude, a “stop and savor” activity to encourage people to slow down and enjoy things, an opportunity to shred negative thoughts, a photo booth and several other mindfulness activities.
“Psychology has always been about bringing people who were down back up to normal, but positive psychology looks to bring people who are at normal to even a higher state,” Rodgers said. “There was something about that aspect that really clicked with me. I think it just fit my personality.”
Based on surveys and research that Rodgers conducted during “Positive Psychology Week,” he created the poster, titled “The Impact of Positive Environment on Subjective Well-Being,” that was presented at the WPPA Conference. After surveying 36 students, faculty and staff, Rodgers’ results yielded findings “that a positive college community environment enhances well-being and happiness among its students.”
While at the conference, Rodgers toured Claremont Graduate University and hopes to attend graduate school there.
“It’s really remarkable that a year ago I had barely heard of positive psychology and now it’s a field that I’m extremely interested in,” Rodgers said. “After the conference, I couldn’t wait to get back to the Ozarks campus and share some of the things I learned with my classmates and professors. It’s an area that keeps getting more and more interesting to me and I plan to keep pursuing it.”