New CWB Director of Research: Dr. Mandy O’Neill

by Whitney Hopler, Communications Director

New CWB Director of Research: Dr. Mandy O’Neill
Dr. Mandy O’Neill

Dr. Mandy O’Neill, who is known worldwide for her pioneering well-being research on emotions in the workplace and organizational culture, is CWB's new Director of Research. O’Neill, an associate professor of management in the School of Business and previous longtime senior scholar and senior scientist, will lead a team of researchers as they discover new well-being insights across diverse academic disciplines.

“The interdisciplinary aspect of our center is unique, and I’m looking forward to working with departments throughout Mason to strengthen our work together through well-being research,” O’Neill said.

Dr. Nance Lucas, our center’s executive director, noted that O’Neill’s research work aligns well with our center’s focus. “Our mission and vision at the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being have been strengthened and are aligned with Mandy’s scholarship work on emotions in the workplace and organizational culture,” she said. “Her work is vital to our Leading to Well-Being programs. We bring our whole selves to our places of employment, and one of the most critical, yet least understood, dynamics is how emotions influence organizational culture.”

O’Neill is creating community among our senior scholars by sharing their work with each other. “To be able to connect with each other to understand the purpose and impact of each other’s work will help us achieve successful collaboration across many different disciplines.”

She also plans to partner with other university centers. “I want to work with other higher education institutions to pool our knowledge and collaborate on large-scale research projects.” O’Neill serves on the advisory board for the Center for Positive Organizations at the University of Michigan and has connections to other institutions, such as the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Our senior scholars have a wide range of interests and come from diverse disciplinary backgrounds that connect with our mission of serving as a catalyst for human well-being,” Lucas said. “I’m convinced that every single field and discipline have critical questions that can deepen our understanding of well-being. Mandy will have an opportunity in this new role to develop collaborations among our scholars and partnerships with similar centers at the other universities, while also helping us attract additional best-in-class researchers. Bringing scholars and researchers together from these various disciplines and other centers will allow us to pursue more expansive research projects.”

The intersection of well-being and leadership is a vital connection to understand for success, O’Neill said. “Beyond focusing on their leadership development as individuals, leaders really need to focus on their organization’s health and performance. Their ability to create and enact change in organizations depends not just on their individual abilities, but also the way they’re impacting others and their workplace’s culture as a whole. Developing a culture of well-being really does take commitment from leadership to learn how to care for their colleagues and work together as a supportive team.”

As part of our center’s well-being university work, O’Neill plans to focus on faculty and staff well-being, which she noted affects the students with whom they work. “Research shows that student well-being is significantly impacted by how caring they perceive their professors to be. A huge opportunity for us at Mason is to focus on the well-being of professors and how it impacts our students’ well-being. What emotions are they expressing? How caring are they?”

She also plans to focus on alumni well-being. “How can we connect with them more emotionally, so when they look at Mason they’ll feel affection and a sense of belonging far beyond their graduation?”