For Stella Olson, the Art & Science of Human Flourishing is unlike any other class she’s taken during her three years at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
The course is a collaboration between the College of Letters & Science's Center for Healthy Minds, Penn State and the University of Virginia that doubles as a research study seeking to improve first-year students’ wellbeing and mental health.
And it works.
“I didn’t realize what an impact it would have on me,” says Olson, a biomedical engineering student. “It really makes you look at your life and be introspective about your wellbeing.”
For the team behind the syllabus, this is exactly the goal of the non-traditional course.
“What students really need is a way of understanding their world and who they are that doesn’t make it all seem like a mystery,” says John Dunne, chair of the Department of Asian Language and Cultures and Distinguished Professor of Contemplative Humanities at the Center for Healthy Minds. “Through this course, students can learn how to not just manage and overcome challenges, but flourish from them.”
The course is cross-listed across departments including psychology, educational psychology, counseling psychology, and Asian languages and cultures, and has been offered to first-semester students every fall since 2017. It bridges the gap between humanities and the sciences and brings professors, researchers and instructors across the university together.