Meet Maricia Ryan

Master of Applied Positive Psychology

What is your background?

I focus on Organisational Learning and Development. I have always worked in Education, and helping others find pathways to grow and develop. I completed a Bachelor of Education at the University of Melbourne and began teaching in secondary schools and TAFE, before focusing on the development of adults in professional and organisational contexts. I moved into Organisational Development - designing and delivering learning solutions for leadership, behavioural change, cultural change and capability uplift in organisations. I completed instructional design postgraduate qualifications and have worked on a number of business transformation projects, designing learning solutions to support change. I am always focusing on how business change impacts employees and what skills, knowledge and mindsets they need to develop to adapt and remain agile - to move forward and be competent to perform their work today and in the future and enjoy being at work. I have consulted and coached leaders and teams across a range of sectors including manufacturing, banking and finance, IT, construction and energy networks. I have lived overseas for part of my career, working in Sweden and Switzerland and volunteering in the United States.

Where are you currently working and what is your role?

I run my own consulting business and deliver programs, coaching and consulting services that put positive psychology into practice to help individuals, teams and organisations to thrive. I apply positive psychology theory and positive organisational scholarship to Organisational Development. I build capability in others to build strategies that enable employees to connect and collaborate. I use a strength-based approach to boost engagement and share evidence based ways to be more resilient and well at work, and to feel good and function well.

What inspired you to enrol in the Master of Applied Positive Psychology?

I was intrigued by the use of strengths at work to help employees learn faster, be more engaged and energised at work. This course exposed me to a much broader range of positive psychology practices and positive organisational scholarship that enabled me to better understand the science of wellbeing and the attributes of positive organisations. The course enabled me to study the application of positive psychology at the individual, team and organisational context in detail, to help individuals be more engaged and excited by the work they do and organisations build positive workplaces. I loved that it was an applied degree as I wanted to study the science and be able to apply the theory and concepts in practical ways into an organisational context.

How did you juggle work and study?

I reduced my working hours and allocated study time during evenings and on weekends. I found opportunities to apply the science immediately into teams and with leaders I was working with. I spent every spare moment reading journal articles and academic papers for 2 years and always had a few in my bag to read while commuting, waiting in line for a coffee or soaking up the sun at the beach! I lived and breathed positive psychology for 2 intensive years. Post-graduation, I’m still working hard to educate others on how to build positive practices into their work day, but also read for leisure, savour more family time and focus on living a full and purposeful life.

What did you find most challenging about doing the course?

I had not studied for 15 years and was initially apprehensive about my capability to study at Masters level. My confidence was buoyed by the support from my professors, the support from academic services and my cohort of MAPPsters. My confidence grew after I had written my first couple of assessments, got feedback and got into the groove of writing academically. I also found the culminating capstone unit challenging as this was the time to consolidate learning and focus on a specific field of interest and application. It was both exhilarating and exhausting, and probably the only time in my life, I had the opportunity to deep dive into studying specific research on cultivating high-quality connections to foster positive work relationships.

What was the most valuable aspect of the course?

I valued the accessibility to academic researchers, becoming involved in positive psychology associations and networks, and being exposed to a broad range of academic research and practical application of the science in organisations. More importantly, it was the sense of belonging to the MAPP tribe – getting support and building connections with students and alumni. They have become a strong part of my supportive network and continue to be part of my life.

How has this course benefited your career?

This course has enabled me to build a solid business case for introducing strength-based practices into leadership and team practices. It has broadened and deepened my understanding of the range of practices available to create positive change when advising clients. It has given me professional confidence to design and deliver strength-based learning solutions to help leaders build positive workplaces, and give individuals strategies and practical ways to be more resilient, collaborative and skilled to developing strength based practices to be healthy and well at work.  It has given me a depth of understanding to be able to present a strong business case for introducing positive leadership practices to unlock the untapped human potential in organisations for both business and personal growth.

What advice would you have for someone thinking about doing this course?

As this is an emerging field, be prepared to be an early adopter, thought leader and positive influencer in your professional field. Consider how you will use what you study and apply it into your existing professional field, in your community and in your personal life for positive change. It has changed the lens through which I choose to view the world and the experiences life presents us.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

When studying the application of positive psychology, you must first study its application on the individual, and so you have the opportunity to focus on your own strengths and build your own wellbeing practices before building competence to apply the science to assist others - individuals, groups and communities to foster strength-based practices to flourish and thrive. It is such an honour to help others be their best possible selves.