College of Education and Human Development - George Mason University
Graduate School of Education - George Mason University

Our Graduate School of Education is the alma mater for one third of teachers and administrators in Northern Virginia’s world-class school systems. Each year, more than 3,000 graduate students enroll in our innovative academic programs, which include advanced study for teachers and school leaders, instructional design and technology, and a renowned PhD in Education program that is among the largest in the country.


School of Recreation, Health, and Tourism - George Mason University

The School of Recreation, Health, and Tourism (SRHT) offers exciting, career-ready majors in dynamic fields such as athletic training, tourism and events management, health and physical education, kinesiology, sport management, and recreation management. SRHT features renowned faculty, cutting-edge research, six laboratories and centers, and a diverse student body of more than 1,000 undergraduate and graduate students each year. Each major requires one or more internship or clinical experiences, ensuring that students graduate not just with a transcript but with a resume that demonstrates their professional aptitude and skills.

PhD, University of Minnesota
Senior Associate Dean, CEHD Administration

Contact Information

Send email to Dr. Ford

Phone: (703) 993-2004
Fax: (703) 993-2001

George Mason University
Fairfax Campus
Thompson Hall 2101
4400 University Dr.
MS 2F1
Fairfax, VA 22030


Martin Ford's research focuses on motivation and competence development across the life span, with a special focus on adolescents and young adults. He is the creator of Motivational Systems Theory (MST) and co-creator of the Thriving with Social Purpose framework (with Peyton Smith) that links MST concepts and principles with optimal functioning. Martin has also developed assessment tools designed to help people identify their core personal goals and potential obstacles to the pursuit of those goals, including the Assessment of Personal Goals (APG; with C.W. Nichols), the Assessment of Personal Agency Belief Patterns (APP), and the APG Personal Application Guide (with Peyton Smith; see

Martin received his bachelor's degree from Penn State's College of Human Development in 1975, and his doctorate in child psychology from the University of Minnesota in 1980. During his 13 years at Stanford University, Dr. Ford received the APA Division 15 Early Contribution Award (1983) and Division 7's McCandless Young Scientist Award (1987). In 1993 he moved to George Mason University, where he applies motivational principles on a daily basis in his role as Senior Associate Dean of the College of Education and Human Development. Martin also served as Acting Dean of the College on two occasions (2000-2001 and 2009-2010), and in 2007 received the David W. Rossell Quill Award for leadership on initiatives resulting in advancement of the university's mission.

Research Interests

  • Motivation and competence development
  • Social and practical intelligence
  • Positive psychology
  • Child and adolescent development

Recent Publications

  • Ford, M.E., & Smith, P.R. (in preparation). Motivating self and others: How thriving with social purpose can create meaningful lives and effective leaders.
  • Ford, M.E., & Smith, P.R. (2011). Motivation. To appear in B.B. Brown & M. Prinstein, Encyclopedia of adolescence. Oxford: Academic Press.
  • Ford, M.E., & Smith, P.R. (2010). The APG Personal Application Guide. Seattle, WA: Madison Learning. Available from
  • Ford, M.E., & Smith, P.R. (2010). The Assessment of Personal Agency Belief Patterns. Seattle, WA: Madison Learning. Available from
  • Ford, M.E., & Smith, P.R. (2009). Building on a strong foundation: Five pathways to the next level of motivational theorizing. In K. Wentzel & A. Wigfield (Eds.), Handbook on motivation at school (pp. 265-275). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Ford, M.E., & Smith, P.R. (2007). Thriving with social purpose: An integrative approach to the development of optimal functioning. Educational Psychologist, 42, 153-171.
  • Ford, M.E., & Nichols, C.W. (2007). The Assessment of Personal Goals. Seattle, WA: Madison Learning. Available from [Reviewed in: Henderson, S.J. (2009). Assessment of Personal Goals: An online tool for personal counseling, coaching, and business consulting. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 41, 244-249.]