Getting Personal with CPO’s New Managing Director

January 30, 2023

Michelle Hunt Bruner joined the Center for Positive Organizations in October as Managing Director. In her role, she will set the strategic direction of the Center and manage its operations and growth. Michelle was previously with Wayne State University for over two decades in progressive roles including Senior Director of Student Academic Success.

Now that Michelle has completed her first 90 days, we asked her to share some insights about the Center as well as to answer some personal questions – like her favorite karaoke song.

What drew you to the Managing Director position with CPO?

Throughout college and most of graduate school, my focus was on becoming a clinical psychologist. Along the way, I shifted my focus and used those skills to help college students. Over the last 21 years in higher education, what I enjoyed most were collaborations across university departments that helped us to address not only students’ academic needs, but their social, financial, and emotional needs, too. And that’s what I love about CPO. Every day, our faculty, staff, students, and business leaders are teaching, studying, and implementing the factors that create cultures that help individuals and organizations become their best. These are conversations and activities that I get to be a part of as my work with a dedicated team of staff and scholars in Positive Organizational Scholarship. And I love it!

What three words would you use to describe the CPO community?

Engaging. Innovative. People-focused.

What is one thriving practice you wish more people knew about? 

I see gratitude as centrally important to happiness and well-being. When we have an appreciation for the people, experiences, and opportunities in our lives, we’re less likely to be distracted by the insignificant things, and we move through our days with an appreciation for those that make us healthier and happier. Research has demonstrated that keeping a gratitude journal and being specific about the people and things we’re grateful for helps us avoid taking them for granted, and it elicits positive emotions. Plus, you end up with a book or books full of the good things in your life. I’ve gained and grown so much by keeping gratitude journals.

What are you looking forward to most in the coming year?

I have two daughters, and my youngest is deciding which college she’ll attend next year. This is perhaps the biggest decision that she’ll make so far – evaluating so many factors and considering what’s important to her. I’m also excited about opportunities for U-M’s undergraduate students. Our Thriving Accelerator Workshops, the Thriving Catalyst Endorsement Program and the Magnify Immersion Program give students a variety of ways to learn about concepts related to personal and organizational thriving, to engage in them up close, and to earn an endorsement and/or course credit for their work. I’ve talked with students who say experiences like these with the Center have made them more confident in their ability to accept a professional offer from an organization and “hit the ground running” using what they’ve learned.

What book/article have you read recently?

When I first learned of the Managing Director position at CPO, I was excited to know that I’d already read some of the books written by faculty affiliated with the Center. Since joining the Center, I’ve been reading more books and articles written by global leaders in Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS), leaders that we are fortunate to have right here at U-M. Now, I’m finishing How to Be A Positive Leader: Insights from Leading Thinkers on Positive Organizations, by Jane Dutton, one of the co-founders of the Center, and Gretchen Spreitzer, U-M Professor of Management and Organizations. This is a book full of examples of “simple” behaviors that have saved organizations and literally saved lives. The Center has a library of many books on POS, and I’m looking forward to getting through most of them.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Dark chocolate with almonds. My friends and family know this.

Must-have app on your phone?

We enjoy road trips, and the Maps app helps us explore new places.

What/who makes you laugh the most?

My daughters, Alex and Olivia, for sure.

What would you sing at Karaoke night?

We Are Family, by Sister Sledge, and my two sisters would be on stage with me. I’d sing this 70’s classic, not because I’d deliver a good rendition, but because it would be fun!