Larry Marks, UCF Counseling and Psychological Services, along with authors John Wade and Roderick Hetzel, co-edited Positive Psychology on the College Campus. The book provides innovative and practical strategies that can be employed with students to enhance both their personal development and educational experiences.

Positive psychology is the study of factors that contribute to the success and well-being of individuals and organizations. There is a congruency between the uplifting positive psychology concepts and the focus on student development, creating opportunities for success, acquiring knowledge and skills, and nurturing of talent and potential that defines higher education. Furthermore, a positive psychology approach, including focusing on well-being and goal achievement, is often experienced as motivating and is well received by staff and students. Each chapter addresses different application areas and describes approaches and strategies that those working with students can use.

The book begins with an exploration of how positive psychology contributes to student success and institutional effectiveness, and describes characteristics and talents of today’s college students. There is a chapter that provides an introduction to positive psychology (Positive Psychology 101), as well as a chapter describing how positive psychology constructs are culturally embedded, meaning that an individual’s background and identities must be considered when applying positive psychology principles. In fact, all of the chapters include a discussion of the cultural considerations related to the chapter’s topic. In addition to its primary purpose of being a resource for college and university staff, the book also could be included as a textbook for a course in higher education administration.

Examples of some of the positive psychology concepts that are seen across chapters include:

  • Developing a feeling of hope within students, which includes helping them consider how they can reach their goals.
  • Providing feedback to students that encourages a growth mindset – students’ beliefs that their abilities have the potential to be further developed.
  • Identifying, exploring, and using students’ strengths, those personal qualities and skills that are often downplayed, but when given the chance to be further developed and employed can make a student feel more fulfilled.
  • Facilitating change and communication in groups through appreciative inquiry, where the overall intervention is to explore and build upon what is already working well.
  • Creating opportunities to not only experience positive emotions such as joy, gratitude, and inspiration, but to mindfully experience the benefits of these emotions including being able to think more creatively, see more solutions to problems, and further develop skills and knowledge.
  • Exploring students’ sense of meaning and purpose, which plays a role in engagement in learning, major/career choice, motivation, and identity.

    These positive psychology concepts also build student’s overall well-being, and research in positive psychology has demonstrated that greater well-being leads to success for students on a variety of dimensions including learning, income, relationships, physical health, and resiliency. Well-being is a multi-faced concept, and the final chapter describes one major view that well-being is comprised of five domains: purpose, social, financial, physical, community. Taken together, when college and university personnel apply the concepts of positive psychology to student and academic affairs, it creates further opportunities for students to not just pass through, but to be genuinely engaged and thrive as a college student.

    Many academic or professional books are “edited” books, meaning that the editor(s) brings together other professionals to write a chapter on their area of expertise. As editors, they provide guidelines and feedback on the chapters, and work with the chapter authors on the revision process. They also work directly with the publisher on meeting their requirements.

    In addition to being one of the editors, Marks wrote one of the chapters, “Life Coaching for Students.” (He provides coaching services at CAPS, in addition to counseling.)

    CAPS is a department in the Division of Student Development and Enrollment Services. For more information, visit: