Appreciative Inquiry Expert Helps Open Cooperrider Center at Champlain College

Mary Grace Neville

Visiting professor Dr. Mary Grace Neville has come to the Stiller School of Business (SSB) at Champlain College this autumn to teach corporate social responsibility and expand the College's Appreciative Inquiry initiatives.

Neville, one of three professors awarded the Roger H. Perry Chair this year, worked to bring a new Center of Excellence for implementing appreciative inquiry to the College along with SSB Dean Dr. Wes Balda and Professor Lindsey Godwin. "Since 2001 I've been working on a project for dissertation, ‘Business as an Agent of World Benefit,' encouraging people to go out and interview those with different mindsets and to better understand oneself and to see what good people are doing in business, whatever ‘good' means to them. David Cooperrider, the namesake of Champlain's new Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry, was on the dissertation committee with me." Neville noted that it's nice to see things come full-circle, as she's also worked with Godwin for quite some time.

Neville is dedicated to expanding global social well-being through business by developing organizational systems and human capacity. "Appreciative inquiry is about changing the mindset of people to believe that we create the world we live in and have the ability to make it what we want. It is holding space for multiple realities that aren't the same, but honoring the other." She notes that our destiny is not written, and that in business, merely recognizing and honoring the existence of gives them a sense of self-worth. This is just as, if not more, important than providing others with economic support.

Although while at Champlain Neville is responsible for instructing three sections of the Corporate Social Responsibility course and help implement the Cooperrider Center, she is eager to continue her active research. "As a social scientist, Neville approaches communities and society as her laboratory," reads her bio from Southwestern University. She grounds her ongoing research in lessons from her Wharton MBA, organizational behavior PhD, and ongoing professional development, such as training at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland, a Fullbright fellowship year teaching and studying in Ghana, West Africa, and applied conference presentations in Greece, Poland, Qatar, Brazil, and South Africa. 

While in Ghana, she learned a vast amount on the approach to leadership. "Research contributes to identifying forms of leadership and business that advance well-being in society, what stance positive change leaders use engaging the world, and how we can best educate tomorrow's leaders for handling the complexities of our increasingly global world."

Her research is comprised of integrating liberal arts into an undergraduate business curriculum. The Stiller School's current Business Café curriculum gives students the opportunity to get a taste of many facets of business. Neville believes that it's exactly what undergraduate students need, as it should reflect a shrunken version of an MBA program. "Business Café, integrated with Champlain's Concepts of the Self course in the first-year of the Core curriculum, helps students recognize an ethical concept of self. They can see, ‘what are the questions we can ask, rather than follow the path others have made?' It also helps them better recognize what they hope to do in their futures," she said. She loves engaging with students to combine knowing, thinking and doing to facilitate development.

Prior to taking her place as Perry Chair, Neville has been a non-profit administrator, development director of a major public aquarium, organization and change strategist at a global management consulting firm, and project director of several multi-institutional inquiries.

Upon the completion of her time at Champlain, she hopes to continue her research, as well as teach, write, consult and coach on ways in which individuals and businesses can act as agents of world benefit. By observing Appreciative Inquiry in her every-day life, she believes positive actions shape larger social patterns that make a difference in the world over time. Hence, her work advances positive intersections between business and society.

Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college in Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Canada, and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain offers a traditional undergraduate experience from its beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain and over 90 residential undergraduate and online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain's distinctive career-driven approach to higher education embodies the notion that true learning occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain College is included in the Princeton Review's The Best 384 Colleges: 2019 Edition. For the fourth year in a row, Champlain was named a "Most Innovative School" in the North by U.S. News & World Report's 2019 "America's Best Colleges,” and a “Best Value School” and is ranked in the top 100 “Regional Universities of the North” and in the top 25 for “Best Undergraduate Teaching.” Champlain is also featured in the Fiske Guide to Colleges for 2019 as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada and Great Britain and is a 2019 College of Distinction. For more information, visit