Beth Cabrera, Advocate of Personal Well-Being

She reoriented her career many times; each change brought her to a more fulfilling work.

Book author, blogger, motivational speaker, promoter of work environments where people thrive, and more.

Beth Fraser Cabrera has worn many professional hats: academic researcher, book author, motivational speaker, executive coach, advocate of personal well-being, promoter of work environments where people thrive, and much more.

She has had to reorient her own career every time her family moved because of her husband’s job relocations. Beth’s husband is Ángel Cabrera, president of George Mason University, in Fairfax, Virginia.

Growing up in Florence, Alabama, Beth attended Coffee High School. She earned a B.A. in Business Administration in 1990 from Rhodes College, in Memphis, Tennessee. At Georgia Tech, she earned master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Industrial/Organizational Psychology in 1993 and 1995, respectively.

From Georgia Tech, Beth joined the faculty of Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. She is the first American to earn tenure in the prestigious Spanish university. She continued her academic career in Arizona State University. In 2009, she founded Cabrera Insights, a leadership development company, and started a blog where she shares practical tips to promote well-being through positivity and purpose.

At George Mason University, in addition to being first lady, Beth is a senior scholar at the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being.

What is your average workday like?

I teach executive education classes and give workshops for companies. I also give keynote presentations on how individuals and leaders can apply positive psychology in their lives and the workplace for greater success and well-being.

I spend much of my day writing blog posts, articles, or book chapters; doing research; and preparing talks. The rest of my time is spent teaching, going to meetings and events at George Mason University, and attending board meetings.

What I most enjoy about my job is the autonomy that I have and the fact that I’m constantly learning through my research and interactions with others.

How did Georgia Tech prepare you for your current position?

I learned both how to do research and how to evaluate the research done by others. Getting a degree in psychology from Georgia Tech gave me a deeper understanding of statistics and research methods than I believe I would have acquired elsewhere. This has been very helpful in my career.

Dr. Michael York was a fantastic teacher and mentor. He helped so many students majoring in industrial and organizational psychology pursue careers we love.

I feel incredibly lucky to have had Dr. Nambury Raju as my dissertation advisor. What a special person!

What has been the greatest challenge in your professional life so far?

My greatest career challenge has been having to reorient my career each time we relocated for my husband’s job. The good news is that each time I’ve made a change, I have moved in a direction that led to a more fulfilling career.

What has been the most gratifying experience of your professional career so far?

Publishing my book, “Beyond Happy,” was definitely a career highlight.

After years of writing academic articles, I enjoyed writing something with the potential to impact a much broader audience. It means so much when people tell me my book has made a positive difference in their lives. It helped my career by leading to other opportunities, like creating a class on thriving at work for The Great Courses.

What is the most important thing you learned while at Georgia Tech?

I learned to appreciate the value of social support. Working together with other students on our statistics homework and studying together for our preliminary exams made things easier and much more enjoyable. Hanging out at Limerick Junction on Friday nights was a great way to reduce stress.

What is a vivid memory of your time at Georgia Tech?

I met and fell in love with my husband, Ángel Cabrera, while we were students at Tech. Many of my memories are of the time we spent together getting to know each other – having lunch at Pero’s, doing homework assignments in the Skiles computer room, playing racquetball in theCampus Recreation Center, or observing animals at the zoo for Dr. Terry Maple’s Comparative Psychology class.

What advice would you give to current students at Georgia Tech?

Study hard, but make sure to take breaks!

Get up and move, go outside, put your phone down, and spend time with others.

It may sound counterintuitive, but the more stressed out you feel, the more important it is to take some time to socialize.

If you could have taken an alternative career path, what would you be doing instead?

Chief Wellbeing Officer at a large company, developing programs that help employees thrive.

What’s something about yourself that’s not obvious to your colleagues?

I didn’t know a word of Spanish when I met my husband in graduate school. A few years later I became a college professor in Spain. I was the first American to earn tenure at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.

If you could have dinner with any person from history, whom would you invite?

Helen Keller. She was from Tuscumbia, Alabama, just across the river from where I grew up. Every summer they perform the play “The Miracle Worker” on the grounds of her home, Ivy Green. I went to see it with some friends to celebrate my sixth birthday. I have always admired her courage, intelligence, and positivity, and how she dedicated her life to helping others facing similar conditions.

Related stories
Positively Charged
Meet College of Sciences Alumnus and George Mason University President Ángel Cabrera

Related information
How to build your well-being to thrive, TEDx GeorgeMasonU