Mary Tyszkiewicz

Mary Tyszkiewicz

’93 PhD (PA)

Heroic Improvisation

Dr. Mary Tyszkiewicz lives in Cabin John, Maryland, where she founded Heroic Improvisation. The Heroic Improvisation organization puts together workshops in a chaotic situation and gives individuals the felt-sense of moving into action together in a high stakes situation.

As the founder of Heroic Improvisation, Dr. Tyszkiewicz designs disaster exercises for elected officials, emergency managers, corporate groups, citizens and disaster survivors. She is also responsible for documenting how small groups implement solutions in high-stakes situations. She has brought the three-hour Heroic Improvisation Workshop to diverse groups of people such as: airline staff, conference center staff, disaster survivors, disaster volunteers, emergency responders, indigenous tribes, and school staff in the U.S. and Philippines. As lead evaluator, Dr. Tyszkiewicz collaborates with anthropologists, educators, and improvisers. She has worked with Brad Fortier to bring his program, Spontaneous Village, to child migrants who have travelled to the U.S./Mexico border.

Prior to founding Heroic Improvisation, Dr. Tyszkiewicz worked for some of the top leaders in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Throughout her analysis career, Dr. Tyszkiewicz has investigated how public investments today can produce effects in the future. She has studied how public money invested in scientific research today, can produce innovations tomorrow and how effective advance preparation for disaster can save lives and money in the future. She has extensive experience in using research design and qualitative research methods to document program impacts.

Dr. Tyszkiewicz has an upcoming book entitled, “Play for Real: How Small Groups Confidently Tackle High-Stakes Events Through Caring.” The book describes three types of case studies showing how small groups have confidently tackled high-stakes events through caring for others. Additionally, it shows how when groups are driven by service, their attention is riveted on solving problems together. The collective attention on problem opens up creative solutions that would have been unseen by individuals.

She is thankful for having had the opportunity to learn a diverse set of social science tools at Maxwell that she uses to adapt research methods to complex policy problems, daily. It was serving as a graduate assistant at the Technology and Information Policy Program that helped her hone research skills. The financial support she received helped her focus on her coursework full-time. After being well-prepared with research methods, Dr. Tyszkiewicz was able to self-fund her dissertation research and complete it in 12 months.

When asked if she had any advice for current Maxwell students, Dr. Tyszkiewicz's response was for students to value the research methods they learn, as they will be able to employ them throughout their careers as new public policy problems arise. She never imagined that she would use theater games to prepare citizens for disasters and that is where solid research methods led her. Dr. Tyszkiewicz went on to state, “Students are likely to be given an opportunity to discover, explore and experiment to solve wicked policy problems. With their Maxwell education, they will be equipped to meet these problems directly and solve them. Let the adventure begin!”

Dr. Tyszkiewicz received a doctorate in public administration from The Maxwell School in 1993. She earned a master's degree in science and technology policy and science policy research unit from the University of Sussex in Brighton, England. As well as, an additional master's degree in inorganic chemistry from Iowa State University of Science and Technology and a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Marquette University