Positive Thinking: Dennis Rebelo, President of Alex And Ani University, on the Power of Professional Development

At Alex and Ani, we believe in love, peace, and the power of positive energy, but have you thought about where that starts? Positivity, specifically positive thinking, comes from the inside, and is the foundation of what we teach at Alex and Ani University (AAU). AAU is an extension of Alex and Ani in the form of a professional development center. Under the leadership of President Dennis Rebelo, the institute offers programs that blend science, spirituality, psychology and systems thinking to reveal completely transformed individuals. Students will be more aware, creative, and able to engage in the workplace like never before.

We recently caught up with Rebelo to ask him about his role as President, what he hopes people take away from classes, and how AAU is a perfect embodiment of our message of positivity.


What is the history of AAU? What first peaked your interest about it?

I was originally introduced to Alex and Ani as the Executive Coach delivering a storytelling-based leadership course to executive leadership called AS3™. The course prompted leaders to engaged in mindful reflection about their communication styles, past lived experiences and future expectations to lead collaboratively. It was a humanistic psychological experience that helped me see the human potential of the leadership group.

What is your background and how does it support your responsibilities as President of AAU?

I am a native Rhode Islander who left to attend school in New York. Though I was originally a “science guy” slated to study physics as a scholarship student at the University of Rochester, I realized that there was something far more complex than physics and known variables such as light waves generated from lasers; human beings at work are far more complex. I quickly petitioned the University to customize a degree in Organizational Behavior & Analysis (yes, a first at this research university) blending sociology, psychology and classes from the Simon Graduate School of Business.

Though I once guest lectured at Providence College when I was 16 years old, my real teaching career started when I graduated from Rochester. I was an instructor at La Salle Military Academy teaching psychology and computer science in the early 90’s. After building a technology company and selling it, I returned to school, always consulting along the way.

I earned graduate degrees in Leadership and Business Ethics (MSLBE) from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh while working for Penske Corporation before developing a private business consultancy and professional development center serving out of area CEO’s, regional leaders and local individuals wishing to learn how to systemically story. We use narrative approaches to increase effective presentation skills and generate authentic relational exchanges for leaders.

Prior to joining Alex and Ani to lead the learning organization, Alex and Ani University, I completed my Ph.D. course work in Organizational Systems in the School of Humanistic Psychology at Saybrook University. While leading Alex and Ani University’s curriculum design, train the professor programs, and strategic relationship building efforts, I am able to put the finishing touches on my dissertation book as an added treat.

Connecting a for profit enterprise by being able to explore how self-identity and meaning making can be true difference-makers has allowed me to connect the business me and the academic me as we evolve what it means to be human at work in the 21sst century. My TEDx talk reminds me of this gift I have been given by Carolyn and all others who have shaped by life. I will also be starting to share this new talk, “Discovering Your Soul Story,” at select companies and schools so all business leaders today begin to honor the need for us all to be self-reflective.

What is the ultimate goal of AAU?

The ultimate goal of AAU is to inspire self-reflection en route to a person gaining a clearer understanding of their potentiality then help a person integrated their skills and gifts with ease, grace and honor within the organization and in life at large.

What types of classes, workshops, etc. are available at AAU?

Some of the courses offered at Alex and Ani University are Triple Peak Retail Leadership™, Applied Foundations of System Thinking, Narrate Now™, Rethinking Retail™, and The Psychology of Money among others. There’s even a course offered on Prezi, the up and coming presentation platform that utilizes Zoom User Interface (ZUI). The full course schedule is available on Alex and Ani University’s website.

How is AAU an extension of Carolyn Rafaelian, Founder and Creative Director of Alex and Ani, and her vision?

Carolyn has always been aligned with the philosophy of AAU. Carolyn believes we are gifted in helping others in the world find “their true best self” so that human potential can be actualized one person at a time. Her conviction to ensuring AAU reaches each organizational member helps Alex and Ani be positive inside as we market positive energy to the outside world; it makes certain we each integrated and authentic in our mission.

This post was written by Brendon Cunha