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: Erin Hayes Driscoll
Erin has spent the last 2 decades living and working in the private sector internationally as an HR professional supporting businesses from recruitment to creating post-exit ambassadors. Her focus has been on helping smaller entrepreneurial organizations as well as larger transnational companies to better achieve their business objectives by proactively guiding and furthering their people approaches and priorities. In her work, Erin has brought both professional best practice and positive psychology concepts such as using strengths, finding meaning and building engagement into her work. She holds a BSc in Psychology from the US and a MA in Human Resource Management from the UK as well as being a Senior Certified Practitioner (SCP) with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and a Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Currently, she is studying to earn her Master’s of Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology (MAPPCP) through the University of East London.
After years of travelling and numerous assignments in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, Erin has seen a real need for helping people to connect with their sense of purpose and find meaningful ways to better their lives. Following a personal tragedy in 2017 Erin decided to pursue an opportunity that allowed her to do this more broadly. For the past 2 years Erin has dedicated her time and energy to a Dubai-based social impact organization, Evolvin’ Women. Evolvin’ Women provides unemployed women across Africa who have had limited access to quality education and job opportunities with a multifaceted plan for personal and professional growth. It is designed to help women develop and grow into self-leaders and ultimately managers and leaders of others in order to facilitate their securing jobs back in their home countries. Erin’s role has been to operationally develop the programme and the learning content for the women participants that includes wellness, disciplined knowledge and learning to be aware of self on the journey to developing leadership skills. She’s had the privilege to work with ladies on mind-mapping, goal setting, understanding and using their character strengths and using these practically at work to resolve problems and achieve their goals.
Erin’s top character strengths are honesty, spirituality, curiosity, judgement, fairness and creativity and she is grateful to be able to use these every day! She currently lives in Washington, DC with her three sons and her mother; and is a keen yoga and walking/hiking enthusiast as well as an aficionado of chess and all board games.
Member-at-Large: Fiona English
Fiona is a keynote speaker, coach and thought leader who combines her extensive experience in global investment markets with a deep interest in human potential, culture and society. Passionate about the areas of life that are innately human and finding ways to help us reconnect to ourselves, each other and our planet, the red thread that runs through all her work is narrative. She is particularly drawn to challenging existing narratives and paradigms in life, work and society and recognised as a contemporary thinker across areas such as leadership and meaning. In 2015, she was one of 50 women globally chosen to participate in the W50 Program in UCLA aimed at building the next generation of global women leaders.
Through her MSc in Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology, Fiona undertook research into the lived experience of spirituality in the 21st Century. She continues to focus on her research areas of spirituality, meaning and purpose and authenticity through her speaking and thought leadership work. In 2019, she launched ‘Exploring Spirituality’, a series of projects aimed at creating open dialogue and conversations about spirituality in the 21st Century. She lives in Dublin, Ireland. She loves to run and hike and spend time in nature where most of the creative inspiration for her work comes from. She practices yoga and meditation and is a certified mindfulness and meditation teacher.