The People Behind The VIA Institute
Neal H. Mayerson received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Utah. His specialties were chronic pain and eating disorders. He worked in hospital, community mental health and private practice settings for 15 years as a psychotherapist. In 1992, Dr. Mayerson was named president of the Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Foundation, a private family foundation, and president of The Mayerson Company, a real estate investment and management company. He is a founder of Hummingbird Coaching Services, a pioneer in the delivery of online coaching services, a company which has been recently purchased by Humana. Neal also produced the award winning CD – Hidden Treasures: A Tribute to King Records – and helped establish hand sanitizers as a consumer product category by introducing the Purell brand. Recently, Neal has published a new book of poems titled Shrink Rap and released several tracks of original music.
In 1999 he collaborated with Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman on the founding of positive psychology, specifically by creating the VIA Institute on Character. The VIA Classification of Character Strengths and Virtues along with the VIA Surveys on Character Strengths are considered to be among the most important outputs in positive psychology, having spawned hundreds of scientific articles and millions of people worldwide discovering their character strengths and how to use them to improve their lives and the lives of others.
*Watch a presentation by Dr. Neal Mayerson on the importance of understanding and applying character strengths to improve ourselves and our world: A Character Strengths Revolution.
Read an article on the growing research on character strengths and how more research is needed to continue this work studying the core aspects of human goodness: The Character Strengths Response: An Urgent Call to Action.
Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D, served as a VIA Trustee for its first 10 years. He is Fox Leadership Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and received both the American Psychological Society's William James Award (for basic science) and the Cattell Award (for the application of science). In 1997, he was elected president of the American Psychological Association by the largest vote in modern history. The National Institute of Mental Health, the National Science Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Templeton Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation have supported his research. He is the director of the Positive Psychology Network with a mission to transform social science so it works on the best things in life: virtue, positive emotion and positive institutions—and not just on healing pathology.
Dr. Robert McGrath
Dr. Robert McGrath, Senior Scientist, received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Auburn University and is currently a Professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University in the School of Psychology. He directs Integrated Care for the Underserved of Northeastern New Jersey, a program offering free brief behavioral interventions to low-income primary care patients. Dr. McGrath also maintains an active research program in methodology, measurement and professional issues. He has authored over 250 publications and presentations, including several books on research methodology, and is a contributor to APA Books’ multi-volume reference The Handbook of Research Methods in Psychology.
Dr. Willibald Ruch
Professor Willibald Ruch, Senior Scientist, is currently chair of the section of personality and assessment at the University of Zürich, Switzerland. He received his PhD from the University of Graz, Austria and later worked at different universities in Germany, the UK and Switzerland. Between 1992 and 1998 he held a Heisenberg-fellowship awarded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). He has taught various courses on personality and assessment at different universities and he has authored about 230 journal articles and book chapters and co-edited and co-written five books. Willibald is co-editing or on the editorial board of several journals (including Journal of Individual Differences, Journal of Research in Personality, Journal of Positive Psychology), and co-editor of two book series. Currently he is working on positive psychology traits (e.g., character strengths and virtues; orientations to happiness, cheerfulness, humor) in adults and children/adolescents and their role in contributing to the good life. He is a founder member of the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA) and president of the Swiss Positive Psychology Association (SWIPPA).
Breta Cooper, Executive Director
Dr. Ryan Niemiec, Education Director of the VIA Institute
Christina Jenkins, Administrative Coordinator
Jane S. Anderson serves as VIA Institute faculty member and president of Strength Based Living LLC, a business dedicated to helping individuals and groups harness character strengths. Her book 30 Days of Character Strengths: A Guided Practice to Ignite Your Best offers a guided strengths journey to shift from wrong to strong in personal and professional settings.
As a seasoned presenter, facilitator, and coach, Jane has helped thousands of people practice applying character strengths to meet challenges and transform relationships, work, and everyday life. She has presented at international conferences; served as guest faculty for Wholebeing Institute; supported world-renowned positive psychology experts in the classroom; and she became 1 of 15 charter members in the world, certified to teach VIA’s Mindfulness Based Strengths Practice (MBSP) course.
She relies on all 24 strengths, and especially her signature strengths - creativity, humor, perspective, honesty, and kindness - to enliven and engage others.
Dr. Donna Mayerson, Advisor for Applied Practice at the VIA Institute, is a licensed psychologist and earned her master's degree in special education. Formerly a coaching director of Hummingbird Coaching Services, she is a certified coach who has used her deep knowledge of the VIA strengths as a framework for individual and organizational change with hundreds of education administrators and teachers, leaders of youth-serving organizations, in training coaches/practitioners and with individuals and families.
Ryan M. Niemiec, Psy.D. is a leading figure in the education, research, and practice of character strengths that are found in all human beings. He’s education director of the VIA Institute on Character, a global, non-profit organization in Cincinnati that advances the latest science of character strengths. Ryan is author of 9 books including the brand new consumer-oriented books The Power of Character Strengths (a #1 Amazon bestseller) and The Strengths-Based Workbook for Stress Relief, as well as practitioner-focused books that are leaders in their respective fields including, Character Strengths Interventions, Mindfulness and Character Strengths and Positive Psychology at the Movies. He’s penned over 80 scholarly/peer-reviewed articles and given more than 700 workshops, keynotes, and webinars on positive psychology topics across the globe. He’s an award-winning psychologist, annual instructor at the University of Pennsylvania, and adjunct professor at Xavier University. Ryan received a “distinguished early career award” from the American Psychological Association in 2011, and was granted Fellow status of the International Positive Psychology Association in 2017.
Ruth Pearce, JD, PMP, ACC is VIA's Ambassador and Facilitator. She is president of ALLE LLC and co-founder of In It Together Coaching, which offers group coaching based on VIA Character Strengths. She presents regularly at conferences nationally and internationally on how to use character strengths for project management and building engaged, empowered teams. In 2018, her book Be A Project Motivator: Unlock the Secrets of Strengths-Based Project Management was published by Berrett-Koehler. In August 2021, she launched her first LinkedIn Learning course based on the book and leveraging VIA Character Strengths. Her motto is Be Hopeful; Be Strong; Be Brave; Be Curious.
Advisory Board for Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification
- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Claremont Graduate School
- Ed Diener, University of Illinois
- Raymond D. Fowler, Past CEO, American Psychological Association
- Barbara L. Fredrickson, University of North Carolina
- Howard Gardner, Harvard University
- David Myers, Hope College
- C Rick Snyder, University of Kansas
- Charles Spielberger, University of South Florida
- Claude Steele, Stanford University
- Robert Sternberg, Yale University
- George Vaillant, Harvard University
- Ellen Winner, Harvard University & Boston College
Youth Advisory Board for Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification
- Bonnie Benard, WestEd
- Robert Blum, Center for Adolescent Health
- Dale Blyth, Center for Youth Development
- Sonia Chessen, White House Council of Youth Violence
- Reginald Clark, Clark & Associates
- Lucy Davidson, Center for Child Well-being
- Daniel Hart, Camden College of Arts and Sciences
- Thaddeus Ferber, Forum for Youth Investment
- Kenneth Maton, University of Maryland
- Heather Johnston Nicholson, Girls Incorporated
- Karen Pittman, Forum for Youth Investment
- Jane Quinn, Children's Aid Society
- Constancia Warren, Academy for Educational Development
- Nicole Yohalem, Forum for Youth Investment
Core Contributors to the Character Strengths and Virtues Handbook
- Roy F. Baumeister (Humility; Self-Regulation)
- Marvin W. Berkowitz (Fairness)
- Jessey H. Bernstein (Vitality)
- W Keith Campbell (Humility)
- Katherine Dahlsgaard (Lessons from History)
- Lucy Davidson (Integrity)
- Robert A. Emmons (Gratitude)
- Julie Juola Exline (Humility)
- Constance A. Flanagan (Citizenship)
- Jonathan Haidt (Appreciation of Beauty)
- Andrew C. Harter (Persistence)
- Pamela S. Hartman (Perspective)
- Nick Haslam (Prudence)
- Cindy Hazan (Love)
- Thomas E. Joiner (Humility)
- Lauren V. Kachorek (Humility)
- Todd B. Kashdan (Curiosity)
- Dacher Keltner (Appreciation of Beauty)
- Joachim I. Krueger (Humility)
- Jacqueline S. Mattis (Spirituality)
- John D. Mayer (Social Intelligence)
- Michael E. McCullough (Forgiveness; Kindness)
- Nansook Park (Assessment and Applications)
- Elizabeth Pollard (Integrity)
- Stehpen G. Post (Kindness)
- K Ann Renninger (Love of Learning)
- Willibald Ruch (Humor)
- Richard M. Ryan (Vitality)
- Peter Salovey (Social Intelligence)
- Carol Sansone (Love of Learning)
- Kennon M. Sheldon (Integrity)
- Stephen A. Sherblom (Fairness)
- Dean Keith Simonton (Creativity)
- Jessi L. Smith (Love of Learning)
- Tracy A. Steen (Bravery)
- Dianne M. Tice (Persistence)
- Kathleen D. Vohs (Self-Regulation)
- Harry M. Wallace (Persistence)
- Monica C. Worline (Bravery)
- Stephen J. Zaccaro (Leadership)