President & Co-Founder: Ryan M. Niemiec
Affiliation: Education Director, VIA Institute on Character
Term: Through 2024
Ryan M. Niemiec, Psy.D. is a leading international figure in the education, research, and practice of character strengths that are found in all human beings. He’s education director of the renown VIA Institute on Character, a nonprofit organization in Cincinnati that leads the global advancement of the science of character strengths. Ryan is an award-winning psychologist, certified coach, annual instructor at the University of Pennsylvania, special guest faculty at 5 coaching and positive psychology institutes, and author of 11 books, 90+ academic papers, and several-hundred user-friendly articles. His books include the bestselling consumer book, The Power of Character Strengths, the popular stress workbook The Strengths-Based Workbook for Stress Relief, the 2020 workbook The Positivity Workbook for Teens, and Positive Psychology at the Movies. He’s also author of the two leading practitioner-focused books in positive psychology – Character Strengths Interventions and Mindfulness and Character Strengths. The latter book contains the evidenced-based program he founded, Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice (MBSP), used by practitioners across the globe. He has led numerous mindfulness and/or spirituality retreats, dating back about 20 years.
Ryan has been interviewed by a number of luminaries including the legendary Larry King in 2020. He’s given nearly 1,000 presentations on positive psychology topics, including a character strengths world tour in 2009-2010, a TEDx talk in 2017, a speaking tour of Australia, a keynote at a Harvard conference, and invited presentations at conferences across the globe. He is Fellow of the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA) and serves on their Council of Advisors. He is currently co-founder and president of the Spirituality/Meaning Division of IPPA.
Ryan lives in Cincinnati with his wife and three young, zestful children. His highest strengths are hope, love, honesty, fairness, spirituality, curiosity, and appreciation of beauty. He’s an avid chess player, zealot of Michigan State University, super-fan of The Walking Dead, and a collector of vintage/rare Pez dispensers.
Vice President & Co-Founder: Itai Ivtzan
Affiliation: Director, School of Positive Transformation
Term: Through 2024
Itai Ivtzan, Ph.D. is passionate about the combination of psychology and spirituality. It makes his heart sing. He is convinced that if we befriend both psychology and spirituality, and succeed in introducing them into our lives, we will all become super-heroes, and gain super-strengths of awareness, courage, resilience, and compassion. Isn’t this an amazing prospect? Dr. Itai Ivtzan is a positive psychologist, a Professor at Naropa University, teaching and researching at the MA Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Mindfulness-Based. He is also an honorary senior research associate at University College London (UCL). Over the past 20 years, Dr. Ivtzan has run seminars, lectures, workshops and retreats in the UK, US, and around the world, at various educational institutions and at private events. He is a regular keynote speaker at conferences. He published five books, as well as more than 50 journal papers and book chapters. His main areas of research are positive psychology, mindfulness, and spirituality. Dr. Ivtzan is confident that mindfulness meditation has the power to change individuals – in fact, whole societies – for the better. Accordingly, he has been investing much time in studying mindfulness academically, writing books about it, teaching it, and training mindfulness teachers. As part of his work, he established the School of Positive Transformation.
Secretary: Elke Paul
Dr. Elke Paul is an international wellbeing education expert. She holds a PhD in Comparative Education, a university degree (Diploma) in Social Pedagogy, a certification in Positive Psychology and she is an experienced Yoga and Mediation instructor. Dr. Paul has lived and worked in Europe, USA, Asia and Australia and has gained deep insight into international wellbeing school transformation. Committed to human skills learning, Dr. Paul is currently Co-Founder of the startup Create Positive, to realize a holistic wellbeing education vision at scale.
Member-at-Large: Ozum Demirel
Ozum Demirel is a Clinical Psychologist in Turkey and Transformational Coach in the U.S, who focuses on psycho-spiritual development of adults and midwives their self-actualization process in a private practice. She completed her BA degrees in Psychology and Film Studies with a full-tuition academic scholarship at Wesleyan University, CT, and she was awarded with Thorndike Prize for her excellence in Psychology. After working as a filmmaker with global companies and traveling internationally, she has decided to bring her knowledge of stories and characters into the field of Psychology. She received her MA degree in Clinical Psychology with concentration in Spirit-Mind-Body practices from Columbia University, NY.
She is continuing her education as a Jungian Analyst Candidate in C.G. Jung Institute of NYC, integrating creative endeavors with Spirituality and Psychology.