Sunny Stars

Sunny Star: Professor Karen Givvin

562907_103445313139198_1856704238_nI’m so excited to introduce the latest Sunny Star, my Psychology of Education Professor, Karen Givvin. As I prepare to graduate in June, taking her class has been one of the highlights of my academic career thus far. After being a student for the past 17 years or so, it has been so interesting learning about learning. We’ve covered how our teachers instruct most effectively, how students retain knowledge best, and how the classroom culture can help us foster a love for learning or a love for merely earning the best grades. This class has been a perfect reminder about how class is not meant to be a competition or a rat race, but rather, an opportunity to learn valuable information for the sheer sake of knowledge.

Thank you so much to Professor Givvin for this interview! I hope you enjoy reading what she has to say and I hope it brings back fond memories of your days in school!

1. You are an Education Psychology Professor at UCLA. You are especially interested in looking at the different teaching styles in America and other countries. What inspired you to pursue this research?

Each of the members in my small family was born on a different continent and we traveled a lot when I was a kid.  I think I’ve had a sense for a long time that different cultures have different ways of doing things.  It’s interesting when you take that approach toward education.  After all, every culture educates its children in some way — most even in some formal way.  To fail to learn from what people are doing elsewhere is a tremendous (inexcusable) loss.

2. Many American students don’t particularly love school. For example, they often wish their time away by saying, “I can’t wait for the weekend,” or “I can’t wait for the school year to end.” What do you think is the reason for this?

I don’t think it’s a terrible thing to be eager for the weekend or for summer break.  I always am!  Learning is hard work and it’s natural to look forward to time off and the freedom that brings.  Dreading school is something else, and there are too many students for whom that’s the case.  For those students  who hate hard work, there’s little way around it, either in school or in life thereafter.  For those who hate school because they don’t feel cared about or don’t feel safe, we need to make sure we offer a place in which they feel supported to learn.

3. How do you think we can make the classroom environment a happier experience for students?

I believe firmly that the best motivator is an interesting task.  We know from the TIMSS 1999 Video Study that American teachers often make their classrooms fun at the expense of learning.  Challenge can be fun and deeply rewarding.  If we all wanted to engage in tasks that are easy, the developers of Sudoku puzzles wouldn’t offer varied levels of difficulty.  In fact, there probably wouldn’t be Sudoku developers at all!  Struggling with a task and experiencing success as a result makes us feel competent and happy.

4. What do you think we can learn from other countries so that American students are not only learning more, but enjoying the process of learning as well?

Some other countries value students’ thinking more than we do.  I’m particularly drawn to that.  It has the potential to lead individual students to value their OWN thinking more.  That can result not only in a greater willingness to DO more thinking, but also to put more ideas “out there” for discussion.  We’re all better off when there are more voices in the mix.

5. What is your hope for the state of education in our country in the next 20 years?

Education is an enormous undertaking.  Anything with that kind of mass has a great deal of inertia.  It’s difficult to change.  I hope that there will be some resignation to the fact that there aren’t any easy fixes.  We can’t expect to be on top of world rankings in a short period of time (if, indeed, that’s our goal).  I hope that our K-12 education finds a way to settle on small, continuous, and sustainable improvements.  With respect to higher education, I hope that states increase their support for public universities.  Students shouldn’t be expected to carry the amount of debt they currently do.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

Sunny Star: Jordan Brown

If there is any girl that is adding positivity to our lives, it’s Jordan Brown. She and I are actually from the same hometown and we found out recently that we went to all the same schools growing up. Yet it wasn’t until recently that I got connected with Jordan because I was so inspired by her mission to help young women live better lives. For her it’s all about strengthening your self-esteem.

After having met with Jordan, it’s clear how at peace she is with her life. She radiates what she writes about—self-esteem, confidence, and compassion—she has it all. I’m so honored to share her interview with you today and I encourage you to pick up her book to learn more about what she says.

Here is website for more information:


You can also “like” her Facebook page here:

Without further ado, here my interview with Jordan Brown:

1.      You recently wrote and published your first book, The Girl’s Guide to Loving Life. What inspired you to write the book?

A few years ago, I was completely unaware of where true happiness and self-fulfillment came from. I searched for instant gratification in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, fast food drive-thrus, shopping malls, in a romantic partner, etc. Consequently, I became overweight and insecure, in credit card debt, and felt stuck in an unhappy relationship, unsure of how to be happy on my own. It wasn’t until I turned to self-help books for guidance that I got a glimpse of how to create long-lasting happiness for myself and others; I realized that everything I needed or wanted to be happy was already inside of me – I just had to manifest it! I didn’t need to fill a void inside of me with food, buy more ‘stuff’, or depend on another’s praise or opinions for my self-worth. I needed a true love for myself, an attitude of gratitude, and happiness that wasn’t dependent on outside circumstances.

I started reading for hours on end about happiness, self-esteem, and personal fulfillment. All of my reading and soul searching fueled the fire inside of me and I decided to start blogging to share my ideas with others on the web. The positive feedback I received from my ponderings inspired me to pursue an even bigger project: to write a book to share my new-found insight with others. Although it took me a while to get here, I am now I am at a beautiful place in my life and want to help others reach this same point. This is ultimately what inspired me to write a guide on helping other women love themselves and love their lives.

2. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing young women today?

I think the biggest challenge facing young women face today is developing a negative self-image and, in turn, having low self-esteem. Studies show that 70% of girls believe they aren’t good enough and 25% of teenage girls say that they don’t like or hate themselves.  Lack of self-esteem is an underlying cause of many of the challenges young women face including eating disorders, bullying, putting themselves and others down, avoiding new opportunities/setting goals, lack of motivation to do well in school, engaging in negative behavior, and the list could go on and on. I think it’s vital to educate young girls on the importance of, and how to increase, self-esteem so that they can develop into healthy, confident, and determined young women.

3.      What do you hope to achieve by writing and speaking with young women about self-esteem, confidence, and a love for life?

I hope to educate young women on the profound impact attitude and self-esteem can have on their lives, by helping them change the way they see themselves and life at large. I hope to empower young women to find the courage within to unleash their full potential; to embrace who they are and choose to make the most out of their limited time on Earth. Ultimately, I hope to inspire others to make positive changes in their own lives, which in turn can have a positive impact on the lives of those around them.

4.      What has been your happiest memory throughout this whole process?

Two (I can’t share just one) happiest memories come to mind: 1) The moment I held the first copy of my book. I was overflowing with joy – literally, I started crying because I was so happy. I did it!was all that I could think, over and over again. I was incredibly proud of myself for not only starting this project, but for sticking to it and finishing it in just over a years’ time. 2) Receiving positive feedback from readers. Whether it’s a kind comment on the Facebook fan page or a new, positive review on, I can’t help but smile the biggest, cheesiest grin every time I hear that my book has made a positive impact in someone else’s life. Knowing that I am pursuing my greatest passions, while helping and inspiring others in the process, brings me an indescribable amount of joy.

5. What is your best advice for living a happy life, especially for young women?

Be your own best friend and not your own worst enemy; lift yourself up instead of bringing yourself down. May sound silly or fluffy, but that’s what has drastically changed my life for the better! Work toward training your mind to replace discouraging, self-destructive thoughts with encouraging and positive thoughts. You can do this by becoming more self-aware and by recognizing when you’re being pessimistic, too hard on yourself, or full of fear and self-doubt. Thinking positively about yourself and about life in general doesn’t always happen overnight, but it can happen over time if practiced habitually. Ultimately, positive thoughts lead to positive actions which can result in happier, more enjoyable, and more fulfilled life.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

Sunny Star: Jodi Womack

I went to a motivational weekend hosted by Kristi Blicharski and I left with a new sense of motivation and inspiration. There was one woman in particular that really gave me a rejuvenated perspective. Jodi Womack, founder of No More Nylons, is an entrepreneur, a speaker, a networker, and most importantly as a woman, a friendly and kind-hearted person. She plans networking events for women founded on friendship rather than competition. So many women can get wrapped up in the rat race but Jodi focuses on the human component–the essential desire we have as women for camaraderie and support. I just had to share her advice with you. Enjoy!

Here is Jodi’s website so that you can be apart of the next No More Nylons event:

1. You have started your own company, No More Nylons, which gathers women together to network in a fun and social environment. How does this twist on networking add more happiness to not only your life, but the women who attend? 

Everything about No More Nylons is meant to be lighthearted… from the name itself to the Snooty Lady logo to the nametags that say, “Hello, my name is… and I’m really good at…”  I want people to smile and enjoy. That’s what running my own company is all about: getting out of the work you HAVE to do and into the work you LOVE.

One reason I started my own company is to have more freedom in my life.  I surround myself with people who love what they do, and who are inspired and engaged with the world… I realized when I started attending other business networking events, that those people weren’t having fun. They attended out of obligation. It was depressing. Everyone I know is extremely busy. So to add something to your schedule that you don’t enjoy is crazy! The Socials are an opportunity to relax, socialize, and really connect with other women authentically… We are all so much more than our titles and companies.

2. What do you think are some pitfalls women encounter while networking?

The biggest mistake I see women making is NOT networking. For example, eating lunch alone at their desk everyday, skipping the after work gatherings to get home or waiting to attend a conference or meeting until they know exactly what they need before they start asking…

I make an effort to have one networking appointment per week. It can be as easy as inviting someone to coffee before work, or taking a walk on a lunch break. I estimate I have 5 opportunities a day to network: (1) morning coffee, (2) lunch, (3) afterwork walk, (4) happy hour drinks/appetizers and (5) dinner/evening event. If I do one networking meeting a week, for 50 weeks a year, that equals 50 times I’ve focused on my personal and professional development.

1/wk x 50 wks = 50 opportunities/ year

And obviously, the more you do each week, the more those opportunities add up over the course of a year. Time flies, especially when you’re busy! So building in networking as a routine will ensure you actually do it.

If you feel shy about attending an event alone, recruit a friend. Sometimes when that’s not possible, I’ve reached out to the attendees and coordinators on Twitter before the event to introduce myself and coordinate meeting up with others who are attending alone. By taking the initiative, I become a leader within the group.

3. You have an entrepreneurial spirit. How do you think young women can capture this spirit and apply it to their own lives?

Do something you really care about. Make a project. Organize an event. Write a article. DO something. It doesn’t have to make money. What it does is give you the confidence and credibility that you are someone who makes things happen in the world. So many people are sitting and waiting for someone to tell them what to do with their life. Their energy. Their gifts. That’s what school prepares us for: an authority figure assigning a project with parameters and deadlines. In fact, that’s the work we need to do for ourselves! Focus on what projects have meaning to us, then design what the outcome should be and prepare a schedule when we want to achieve it by.

Surround yourself with positive, outgoing, uplifting influencers. This includes people, media, environments… I subscribe to Springwise newsletter which reports innovative global business ideas; I watch TED talks ( and I attend conferences like SXSW, World Domination Summit, Wisdom 2.0. Build and carefully design the input you influence yourself with. For example, I stopped watching TV news years ago. I find other sources to receive input, without the fear and shock factors.

4. Once you’ve made a connection, what are some suggestions you have for maintaining that relationship?

Start building your personal database. Connect to the actual people, not just the company email and phone numbers that may be on a person’s business card. People change jobs so often that those business cards may be irrelevant within a few years. I personally use an electronic address book as well as Linked In for my business contacts. Any time I can make a note about when and where I met someone, and if a mutual friend introduced us, I know that helps me remember people better. I use the social networks as a way to remember peoples’ names and faces, like virtual flash cards.

Stay in touch, even when you don’t need anything. Many people start networking when they’re looking for a job or when they’re “making an ask.” That strains the relationship before you’ve built it. Send birthday notes. Forward relevant articles that you find. Share inspirational resources. Be someone that contributes.

5. So many women fall in to the corporate bubble for security’s sake rather than pursing their true dream. What advice do you have for women who want to take that leap of faith yet are holding back?

Build your network. Keep your overhead low! Surround yourself with entrepreneurs and those that are pursuing their dreams.

My husband and I started the Jason Womack Company from a home office by purchasing two Apple computers. In the first weekend, we built our company website, designed our workbook and started reaching out to prospective clients from our LinkedIn networks. Within 60 days our company was profitable.

6. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Keep seeking mentors. Find someone who cares about your personal journey, not just your linear career path to advise you on money, strategic alliances, and connecting to influential partners. No one does it alone.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook