Dickinson to Host the ‘Father of Positive Psychology’

Portrait of a man in a business suit in front of a background of green trees.

Martin Seligman

The Joseph Priestley Award and Lecture

by Layla Ilarraza '26

Martin E.P. Seligman, the “father of positive psychology” and director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, will receive Dickinson’s Joseph Priestley Award and deliver the lecture, “Positive Psychology & Beyond.” The ceremony and talk will take place Wednesday, April 3, at 7 p.m. in the Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium, 360 W. Louther St. The event is free and open to the public. The lecture will also be livestreamed.

Seligman will discuss the five building blocks of well-being, known by the acronym PERMA: positive emotion, engagement, positive relationships, meaning, accomplishments and achievements. The goal of positive psychology is to increase flourishing, which occurs through the practices of well-being. Positive psychology is an encompassing approach intended to observe and increase life satisfaction through experiences, traits and application. In addition, Seligman will explore coaching and interventions that promote well-being. He will also discuss how artificial intelligence (AI) will revolutionize coaching and psychotherapy and introduce three newly discovered applications of AI to positive psychology.

Seligman is the Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. His work focuses on positive psychology, learned helplessness, prospection, optimism and positive education. He is the author of several books, including the national bestseller Authentic HappinessFlourish, and his recent autobiography The Hope Circuit. His research and expertise have been used to develop positive psychology and well-being programs in schools and the U.S. Army. Seligman founded the Positive Psychology Center in 2003 at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1996, he was elected president of the American Psychological Association. Seligman has received numerous awards including three Lifetime Distinguished Scientist awards from the American Psychological Association.

The Joseph Priestley Award is presented by Dickinson College in memory of Joseph Priestley, discoverer of oxygen, to a distinguished scientist whose work has contributed to the welfare of humanity. The award, first presented in 1952, recognizes outstanding achievement and contribution to our understanding of science and the world.

This event is supported by the Priestley Fund and is sponsored by The Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and co-sponsored by the departments of biology, chemistry, data analytics, geosciences, environmental studies, mathematics & computer science, psychology, and physics & astronomy.


Published March 25, 2024