Positive psychology research and teaching boosted by major gift

May 14 / 136

Professor Waters (far right) and her students promoted positivity with a Free Hugs Campaign.
Professor Waters (far right) and her students promoted positivity with a Free Hugs Campaign.

A major gift of $2.3 million from philanthropist John Higgins has strengthened the University's research and teaching in the field of positive psychology.

The gift will fund the Gerry Higgins Chair of Positive Psychology. 

Positive psychology aims to build psychological health and resilience in individuals and organisations.

Professor Lea Waters, who is currently Director of the Centre for Positive Psychology in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education has been appointed to the position.

Professor Waters is a leading international researcher in the field of positive psychology, and a known expert in the areas of organisational change and psychology. She said she was excited to be taking on the role.

“The Centre for Positive Psychology is uniquely placed to have a positive impact across business, health and school practice in Australia and across the world,” she said. 

“A particular interest of our centre is the wide-scale application of teaching positive psychology to school students to support the wellbeing and learning of young Australians.”

This is the second Chair and fourth academic position at the University named to honour Gerry Higgins, an Irishman who emigrated from Kiltimagh in County Mayo, Ireland in 1949 and established Higgins Coatings, a successful commercial painting business in Melbourne.  

The positions in philosophy, Irish studies, and medieval art history were variously supported by generous philanthropic support from Allan Myers, Maria Myers and John Higgins.

The latest Chairs (in Irish studies and now Positive Psychology) have been established in collaboration with Newman College, a Catholic residential college of the University, and incumbents play a role in College life.

Mr John Higgins is a member of the Advisory Board of the Centre for Positive Psychology and also a board member of the Campaign for the University of Melbourne.

This gift is part of the Campaign.

The Campaign aims to raise $500 million by 2017 to enable the University to increase its world-leading research, offer more scholarships to make it easier for young people to access higher education and to improve its cultural, sporting and Indigenous programs.

Mr Higgins is passionate about education and has a vision that every student be exposed to the principles of positive psychology through their time at school, so they have the skills to influence their own lives, and those of the people around them.

“Psychology has traditionally supported people to move from minus ten to zero,” he said previously.

 “What I love about positive psychology is it helps people move from zero to plus ten.”

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