George Mason Professor Receives $1.5 Million to Help Youth Seize Opportunities to Accelerate and Enhance their Education

Todd Kashdan, professor of psychology and director of the Well-Being Laboratory at George Mason University, has received funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative in the amount of $1.5 million under a three-year grant to develop and evaluate a ten-week psychological intervention with youth pursuing meaningful goals under the mentorship of adults. The intervention is geared towards enhancing curiosity, self-direction, and purpose in young adults' lives. Kashdan is serving as the research arm of GripTape, a youth-designed and youth-led organization that grew out of a problem identified by students themselves: a lack of opportunities to pursue their own learning passions and interests, and to drive their education.

Kashdan is working with GripTape to clarify whether the intervention works (to improve the psychological, social, academic, and life outcomes of youth), how it works, and for whom. Based on the results, the team plans to refine and expand the program to a larger group of teenagers around the United States.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has a history of funding practitioners and researchers as part of their work to enable every young person -- not just the lucky few -- to enter adulthood with the knowledge, skills, habits, and agency to contribute to and thrive in a changing world.

Kashdan is grateful for being able to focus his time and energy on such high impact work. "Adaptive qualities such as agency, self-control, curiosity, resilience, and meaning and purpose in life are being widely studied by researchers,” he said. “We now know that these elements are greater contributors to living a fulfilling life than the achievement-oriented subjects which are taught in schools today. Little is known about how to enhance adaptive capacities in youth (or adults). GripTape is the most promising intervention I have been exposed to and the more I discovered about their approach, the more I knew I wanted to collaborate with them. Our goal with this generous grant from The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is to help youth reach their full potential."