UT should teach students the way to happiness in the classroom

Caleb Wong

Earning high grades, working at internships, and doing extracurriculars can be an exercise in unhappiness. Rigorous science, though, can give us skills to lead a more satisfying life. The science of positive psychology offers a way for students to apply these skills to their lives. UT teaches two upper division psychology classes both known as “Positive Psychology & the Good Life” with psychology professors Caryn Carlson and Wendy Domjan. 

These courses are popular and attract many students from both psych majors and non-majors to the waitlist. Given how tough college life can, UT should offer larger sections of positive psychology courses to students so any student can enroll in the course. 

Psychology senior Kori Epstein took a positive psychology course with Domjan last spring. She said the course helped her plan her day-to-day schedule better and fostered better habits that made her feel less stressed. 

“These are tools people could use throughout their life, even for people who don’t feel stressed right now,” said Epstein, who is also a peer educator with the Counseling and Mental Health Center. “These are tools that could help them later on for the future.” 

More students deserve the same chance Epstein had to take the course. Despite demand for the course, course enrollment in the largest course is limited to about 95 students. Psychology academic advisor Jay Brown said the department has had trouble finding larger classrooms to accommodate the course. 

“We pack our classes to fire marshal limits,” Brown said. “Room competition is very, very difficult, so we’re trying to look for the largest rooms.”

That said, UT could simply teach the course in a larger venue like the Hogg Memorial Auditorium or even online. 

If more students take the course, it could even foster a campus culture that doesn’t pit self-care against future careers. Professor Laurie Santos, who teaches a positive psychology course at Yale University, said she has already started to see change in the 1,200 students who are taking her course. 

“Students are really putting the techniques into practice,” Santos wrote in an email. “Many have told me they do our healthy practice “rewirements” regularly. Many have even deleted their social media accounts. I think it’s causing real change that’s making a positive impact.” 

Students at Yale and other universities like Harvard have enrolled en masse in the course, showing a pent-up demand to build the foundation of healthy lives. UT wants its graduates to change the world. But while we’re still students, UT should help us try something just as hard: changing ourselves. 

Wong is a Plan II and government senior. He is a senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @calebawong