Steve Pritzker, Psychology

Photograph of Steve Pritzker

Steve Pritzker

Psychology Faculty

For two decades, Steve Pritzker wrote and/or produced almost 200 television shows – including 8 episodes of the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Success should have made him happy – but by the 1990s he found himself in a malaise.

He asked himself why … why wasn't he pleased with his success?… and realized that the answer was simple: he didn't want to keep doing the same things over and over again. "I was in a rut, and I wasn't interested in repeating myself," he remembers.

He started looking around for other things to do. UCLA hired him to teach a class on comedy writing – and he discovered a question that would change the course of his life. "Many beginning comedy writers just gave me imitation after imitation, writing the same things they'd seen. Very few students had an original idea," he remembers. "And this challenged me with the same question I had faced as a writer – How do you inspire people to be original? Under what conditions do they come up with something new instead of settling for the same old answers?"

He started reading research on creativity and realized he didn't have the knowledge to interpret research. He already had a Master's in Psychology, so he went back to school to get his PhD at USC, expecting to focus on creativity training for companies and creativity coaching. But teaching undergraduates reinforced the lesson of his comedy class: he enjoyed working with students: "I really got into teaching," he said. "The whole process appealed to me." Once again, his life changed.

The search for answers regarding the nature of creativity led him to become one of the world's leading experts in the study of creativity - and it's a question that has global implications: how do we get people, governments, countries that are accustomed to doing the same things year after year, to come up with new answers to their most intractable problems?

"It's obvious the world's in a hell of a mess, and we have to find some new answers, not just to the little questions, but to the big questions," he says. "That means we have to stimulate people's creativity at every level, tap everyone's potential to come up with new answers. You can't do anything more important than inspiring the next generation to come up with new approaches to problems that we've failed to solve."

Creativity ties into every aspect of human life, and so Steve came to teach at Saybrook because it allowed him the freedom to pursue his research wherever it lead him. "The wonderful thing about Saybrook is that you work across disciplines with people who have a wide variety of interests," he says. "You get exposed to ideas, you find opportunities, that you never would have the chance to pursue in a more traditional setting."

Today he's the Director of Saybrook's Master's of Psychology with an Emphasis on Creativity which is the only program of it's type in the country. He is also Director of The Creativity Studies Certificate and the Consciousness and Spirituality concentration – and says Saybrook offers the kind of programs he wished had been available when he was a graduate student.

"I don't know any other institution that has the depth of faculty that we have in creativity, or approaches it the way we do, from a humanistic perspective," he says. "It's a vital program, an innovative program that deals with every aspect of creativity, that invites the students in to be a part of its development. That's truly unique."