Champlain College's Cooperrider Center to Host Positive Education Summit Planning Session in Vermont

Lindsey Godwin and David Cooperrider

Studies show that increasing a sense of students' well-being leads to improved learning and success in careers and life. To that end, Champlain College and the International Positive Education Network (IPEN) are teaming up to accelerate positive education in schools around the world from early childhood on up to higher education and beyond.

Champlain College's David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry in the Stiller School of Business and IPEN will hold a World Positive Education Accelerator June 25-28, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. More than 1,200 participants from nearly two dozen countries are expected to attend IPEN's Second Festival of Positive Education and Appreciative Inquiry Summit. The goal of the 2018 meeting will be to design a plan to strengthen and advance positive education globally.

This month, Champlain will host the World Positive Education Accelerator's Steering Committee Meeting on Sept. 14-15. The event will bring together more than 85 members from 16 countries-including teachers, psychologists, higher education faculty and students, headmasters, researchers, CEOs, consultants, and philanthropists-to Burlington to begin work on the 2018 summit.

"Research shows that students with a healthy sense of well-being not only learn more effectively, but they also have more success later in jobs, lead healthier lives, are lifelong learners and avoid risky behaviors," says Lindsey Godwin, director of the Cooperrider Center at Champlain College.

Champlain College received a $1 million gift from the Stiller Family Foundation in 2016 to support the Cooperrider Center's planning and convening of a Positive Education Summit that will use Appreciative Inquiry (AI) to accelerate positive education from early childhood on up. This led to the Cooperrider Center partnering with IPEN, a leading global network dedicated to the advancement of positive education around the globe.

"The World Health Organization reports that, by 2030, depression and mental health problems will be among the most widespread and costly diseases, chronically straining national health systems in the developed world," says Laurel Bongiorno, Dean of the Division of Education and Human Services at Champlain. "There is a pressing need for an education system that not only supports students' learning of academics but also raises psychological well-being, and promotes human flourishing. So much can be changed on behalf of children, young people, and their families, if we embrace a strengths-based, holistic approach to education. This global summit aims to help address those very needs."

Champlain College's Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry is the right partner for this effort, says Emily Larson, IPEN Director. "What IPEN realized after our first Festival of Positive Education was that people walked away inspired but hungry to take action. This makes the partnership with Champlain College's Cooperrider Center a perfect fit-the model of Appreciative Inquiry will allow participants to turn inspiration into concrete action."

Both IPEN and Champlain College believe Appreciative Inquiry can be applied successfully to help advance positive education. The hope is that participants attending the 2018 conference will launch initiatives that will transform early childhood, K-12 and higher education systems into strengths-based, fully human and deeply developmental organizations, that are great places to work, and can deliver on the mission of helping each child become the best version of themselves.

The Steering Committee will collaboratively design next June's accelerator event by:

  • Identifying critical stakeholders and stakeholder groups that represent the whole system (students, educators, and school leadership spanning early education to higher education; parents; counselors; nutritionists; health and mental health experts; local and federal governments, think tanks, and policy makers; marginalized groups; businesses and nonprofits; associations; and foundations) 
  • Planning how to engage these stakeholders
  • Establishing the overarching specific theme of the summit
  • Determining necessary summit content, and
  • Structuring catalytic conference processes such that stakeholders generate innovative, powerful and actionable ideas.

If you have questions about the conference, email

What is an Appreciative Inquiry Summit?

An Appreciative Inquiry ("AI") Summit is a large group strategic planning, designing and implementation meeting that brings a whole system of stakeholders together in a concentrated way. "Appreciative" is about focusing on strengths (what is good in the system?) and "Inquiry" is about the collective questions we ask. AI provides the tools and methods for elevating system-wide strengths, for creating new combinations and concentration effects of strengths, and ultimately spreading and deploying those strengths. The co-creative process makes it possible for large groups of organizations and people to be effective in making decisions, designing rapid prototypes for collective action, and unleashing system-wide strategies for success. It can propel years of follow-through and momentum. The phases of work will include:

1) The Pre-Summit Design - A steering committee comprised of an array of stakeholders including: teachers, students, parents, business leaders, academics, policy makers, funders, positive psychologists, and educational leaders who will further clarify the design and participant mix for the Summit.
2) The Summit - This powerful three-day event will bring together 1,000+ stakeholders to help set in motion a strategic portfolio of 12-20 major collective impact initiatives.
3) Post-Summit Implementation - Projects and initiatives are launched and supported by teams around the world.
Insisting on turning inspiration into action, AI has been called "the best large group method in the world today." David Cooperrider has used this methodology effectively with big cities and whole states; with large school systems; with entire industries; and with a number of influential organizations.

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