Sirois Explores Resiliency with Gustavus Students

Dr. Maria Sirois, a positive psychologist and consultant, was recently on campus for a three-day residency.
Posted on January 29th, 2018 by

Dr. Maria Sirois lecturing in the "Bouncing Forward" class

Dr. Maria Sirois, a master teacher, facilitator and author, recently visited Gustavus Adolphus College for a three-day residency hosted by dance professor Michele Rusinko.

Rusinko met Sirois at Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center in the Berkshire mountains. Rusinko went to take the course “Radiance: Create an Amazing Life After Cancer”, of which Sirois was one of the instructors. Rusinko was powerfully influenced by Sirois. “I developed the January interim course, Bouncing Forward and later the .5 semester course, Resiliency Rebound, based on my studies with Maria and others”, said Rusinko.

Emily Jesmer ’21 during one of the group activities

A positive psychologist and consultant, Sirois focuses on the resilience of the human spirit particularly when under chronic stresses, during significant transitions or changes, or when feeling the shock of wholesale change. Her work in the medical, legal, human service, financial, technology and educational sectors focuses on building capacity and engagement around stressors such as conflicting goals, difficult conversations, unrealistic expectations and moments of failure — using such moments to leverage sustained positive shifts in perspective and ability.

On campus, Sirois led three sessions in Rusinko’s January Interim Experience class “Bouncing Forward”. The focus of the class is on resiliency skills for college and beyond. The course provides an introduction to the tools, concepts and principles of resilience offered by current research in the field of positive psychology and mind-body medicine. Students were pleased by Sirois’ visit to their class. “Just having an internationally known individual take time out of her schedule to speak with our small class in Saint Peter, Minnesota gives me the impression she is a very generous, and incredible person,” said first-year Emily Jesmer.

In her sessions with students, Sirois shared with them different concepts of positive psychology to help them grow their resiliency skills. In one of her sessions, she introduced the positive emotion of gratitude. According to Sirois, appreciation boosts self-confidence and softens the impact of trauma and stress. With gratitude as a point of reference, she introduced an activity called Love Bombing where students were able to name different offices on campus that are not appreciated enough. Students wrote them notes of gratitude that they brought to them after class. “She has made me really appreciate what I am grateful for and often times take for granted,” Jesmer said.

Sirois also introduced the practice of Clear Mind. “The biggest take away I have from my time with Maria is learning about The Clear Mind Practice, which is grounded in optimism through the power of ‘and’”, said Junior Katie Velek “Adding the ‘and’ transitions us from a negative thought pattern to a more optimistic one.” Sirois at the end of the class session revealed to the students, “my hidden agenda is to make you the hero of your life. I want to shift you from ordinary to extraordinary living”.

Sirois also led workshops with the Counseling Center, Health Service, PEaCH and CARE, the Student Life Division, Collegiate Fellows (CFs) and Peer Assistants (PAs). In her workshop with CFs and PAs, she focused on mindful pausing. She believes that every day has best moments and that we need to regularly pause and savor those unique moments. Sirois also gave a public lecture in Alumni Hall. The title of her talk was When Good Things Happen in Dark Times and in it, she spoke on how happiness leads to resilience.

Sirois left a lasting impression on many. “Right now wherever I go on campus someone stops me and thanks me for bringing her to campus.  It was a rich time for so many people” says Rusinko.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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