Spotlight on Louis Alloro: Social-Emotional Leader

by Penny Gilchrist

Spotlight on Louis Alloro: Social-Emotional Leader
Louis Alloro

Wellness Change-agent


George Mason University’s New Century College (NCC) Associate Dean Nance Lucas recently awarded a fellowship to Positive Psychology expert Louis Alloro, M.ED., MAPP, a partner in the Social-Emotional (SOMO) movement, which is conducting the Well-being City project in Cleveland, Ohio. The project’s goal: to help people learn to think more positively. Alloro will work closely with the NCC Center for Consciousness and Transformation (CCT) on workshops to promote what he describes as Social-Emotional Leadership at Mason.

Real Time Resilience

Alloro came to the science of well-being after years of dealing with the emotional effects of a traumatic life experience. One morning when he was twelve years old, he learned that his twenty-year old brother Todd, a college student, had taken his own life. That day, Alloro stood alone in his front yard, gazing at the familiar landscape, and knew that his world would be forever changed.

Many young teens might have spiraled into depression after such a life-changing event, but Alloro made a conscious decision to glean extra joy from life—as though building up a store of it to share with Todd.  When faced with adversity, Alloro tried to envision a positive outcome. “The deliberate effort to frame thoughts positively is what is referred to as real time resilience,” Alloro says.

Positive Psychology

In 2000, Alloro graduated Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Secondary Education and became a high school English teacher. Although he enjoyed teaching, Alloro found more satisfaction in helping his students and fellow teachers view problems as opportunities to learn and grow. He left teaching and in 2007 earned a Masters in the Foundations of Education from Montclair State University in New Jersey.  His thesis explored how students form positive concepts of self.

One morning, he unfolded the New York Times and discovered a front-page article about a new field of study: Positive Psychology, the science of success and happiness. “I realized that my entire life had been leading up to this moment, when I discovered a field that embodied everything I believed in,” says Alloro.

In 2008, Alloro became one of the first one hundred people to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania with a Master of Applied Positive Psychology degree. His work included the creation of the Social-Emotional Leadership theoryderived from Positive Psychology and Social Construction (the theory that everyone creates his or her own reality).


Alloro wanted to help facilitate systemic positive change within organizations or communities. In 2009, he co-founded SOMO, a social-emotional leadership initiative based on his research at Penn. SOMO’s first assignment: Cleveland, Ohio’s Well-being City project, an initiative to help people build psychological, social, and emotional strength. SOMO conducts regular “micro learning labs” with city residents, who then pass along what they’ve learned to others.

Alloro will come to Mason in the spring of 2012 to facilitate several micro learning labs: Brown Bag events on April 9 and 10, and a breakout session for CCT’s Leading With Resilience conference on April 13.

 “Cities and universities that are committed to facilitating the well-being of their constituents can learn from each other about how the science of well-being is applied in everyday life,” says Dean Lucas. The CCT team hopes that the momentum created by these initial learning labs will contribute to Mason’s becoming the world’s first well-being university, where faculty, staff and students learn to effect positive change for themselves, those in their social and professional networks, Mason’s campus, and ultimately, society.