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SIPPA (Students of IPPA)

Leadership Team

Leadership Team

The SMD (Spirituality and Meaning Division) is headed by an Executive Committee. This includes the President, Vice-President, Secretary and Member-at-large. It is the intent of the Division to reflect IPPA’s dual emphasis on the advancement of scholarship and practice; and as such, the leadership structure inherently reflects both of those interests, with a mix of academics and practitioners serving in leadership roles, and a range of backgrounds and cultural mix.

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Holli-Anne Passmore, Ph.D.
Science Representative

Holli-Anne Passmore, PhD, is an Associate Professor and Department Chair of Psychology at Concordia University of Edmonton (CUE) in Alberta, Canada, and and Director of the multi-university Nature—Meaning in Life (NMIL) Research Lab. More

She is an editor of the International Journal of Wellbeing and an invited academic with the Global Wellbeing Initiative.  Her academic research articles and book chapters have been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals and publications, and featured in various media and podcasts.  Holli-Anne collaborates with colleagues from around the globe on a number of well-being-based research endeavours.  A primary focus of her work is the development and validation of practical interventions to enhance well-being through noticing and engaging with everyday nature close to home.  Holli-Anne is passionate about both her research and her teaching.  She has developed upper-level undergraduate courses such as Nature & Wellbeing, and the Psychology of Meaning in Life.  Not surprisingly, Holli-Anne loves spending time in nature, be that the rivervalley in her hometown of Edmonton, or her favourite place in the world, the mountains of Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada.

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Dan Tomasulo, Ph.D.
Practice Representative

Dr. Tomasulo is the Academic Director and core faculty at the Spirituality Mind Body Institute (SMBI), Teachers College, Columbia University, and is on the teaching staff at the University of Pennsylvania where he works with Martin Seligman. More

He holds a Ph.D. in psychology, MFA in writing, and a Master of Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. He is also a Review Editor for Frontiers in Psychology special section Positive Psychology, Dr. Tomasulo was also recently honored by Teachers College, Columbia University with their 2021 Teaching Award.

Sharecare honors Dr. Tomasulo as one of the top ten online influencers on the issue of depression. His award-winning memoir, American Snake Pit (2018) tells of the first experimental group home releasing inmates from America’s most notorious asylum, Willowbrook. His most recent book, Learned Hopefulness, The Power of Positivity To Overcome Depression, is hailed as: “…the perfect recipe for fulfillment, joy, peace, and expansion of awareness.” by Deepak Chopra, MD: Author of Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential. Martin Seligman, Ph.D., author of Flourish, adds: “This is the best go-to book on how to use hope to relieve your depression.”

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Ryan M. Niemiec, Psy.D.
President and Co-Founder, Spirituality and Meaning Division (SMD)

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. More

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.

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Maya Rajah
Member at Large

Maya is a mindfulness meditation and yoga teacher, currently pursuing a Masters degree in psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University. More

Her work specifically focuses on exploring the intersection of positive psychology, spirituality, and flourishing through a scientific lens, and translating research findings into engaging, embodied interventions with a strong empirical foundation.

This work has been largely inspired by Maya’s lifelong quest to understand and harness the foundational elements of wellbeing at a personal level, through an integrative and multi-faceted approach. Though born and raised in Singapore, Maya has spent the last decade of her life traveling extensively and studying a vast range of contemplative practices from various wisdom traditions. Pursuing the academic study of psychology in concert with the applied study of spiritual traditions has awakened a depth of purpose within Maya that drives all her endeavors.

The growth that she has experienced through her invigorating journey of scientific inquiry, daily contemplative practice, and mindful movement has inspired many soulful connections. It has imbued Maya’s experiences of life with profound meaning and fueled a dedication to lifelong learning and authentic sharing that is anchored in her heartfelt intention to lovingly serve others.

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Elke Paul
Secretary, Spirituality and Meaning Division (SMD)

Dr. Elke Paul is an international wellbeing education expert. More

She holds a PhD in Comparative Education, a university degree (Diploma) in Social Pedagogy, a certification in Positive Psychology and she is an experienced Yoga and Mediation instructor. Dr. Paul has lived and worked in Europe, USA, Asia and Australia and has gained deep insight into international wellbeing school transformation. Committed to human skills learning, Dr. Paul is currently Co-Founder of the startup Create Positive, to realize a holistic wellbeing education vision at scale.

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Ozum Demirel
Member-at-Large, Spirituality and Meaning Division (SMD)

Ozum Demirel is a Clinical Psychologist in Turkey and Transformational Coach in the U.S, who focuses on psycho-spiritual development of adults and midwives their self-actualization process in a private practice. More

She completed her BA degrees in Psychology and Film Studies with a full-tuition academic scholarship at Wesleyan University, CT, and she was awarded with Thorndike Prize for her excellence in Psychology. After working as a filmmaker with global companies and traveling internationally, she has decided to bring her knowledge of stories and characters into the field of Psychology. She received her MA degree in Clinical Psychology with concentration in Spirit-Mind-Body practices from Columbia University, NY.

She is continuing her education as a Jungian Analyst Candidate in C.G. Jung Institute of NYC, integrating creative endeavors with Spirituality and Psychology.