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Higher Education With a Higher Purpose

When Universidad TecMilenio was established in 2002, it touted an innovative educational model that allowed students to take a more customized approach. Students have the flexibility to study the topics most applicable to them in crafting their ideal careers.

As a spinoff of the prestigious Monterrey Institute of Technology, the school found almost immediate success and grew quickly. Today, it serves 43,000 students at 29 campuses throughout Mexico and offers an online component.

Yet university leaders believed there was more they could offer to enhance students’ lives.

"One of the things we began thinking about was how a university should be in the 21st century,” says Hector Escamilla, rector at Universidad TecMilenio. “We analyzed what was important in life, and found it was to be happy. And we also found that the people who are happiest are those who have a purpose in life.”

The school then implemented another cutting-edge approach to education in 2012.

“We could see that we should be doing better in higher education to provide the tools for people to get what they think is important in life,” Hector says. “We declared our vision [to be] to prepare people for their purpose in life and provide the competence to achieve it.”

With that in mind, they created a new model for education built on the principles of happiness and well-being. They identified well-being as feeling well, being satisfied and living a life with purpose.

Using the PERMA model (Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Achievement) from positive psychologist Martin Seligman, Ph.D., and adding components of mindfulness and well-being, they developed what Hector calls a “happiness and well-being ecosystem.”

Today more than 700 faculty members and school leaders are certified in positive psychology, and all students take positive psychology and positive organization courses. The emphasis for students is to find their purpose and meaning in life while they develop global competencies that allow them to compete and excel in their chosen professions.

“We believe the way we live will make a difference in the well-being of students,” Hector says. “The most important thing we know is that happiness leads to success, but success does not lead to happiness. That is why we want to focus on happiness.”

He says the key performance indicators at Universidad TecMilenio are the happiness of the students and the rate of employment—and results in both of those areas show that it’s working.

Among first-semester students, 87 percent report a positive change in the definition of their life purpose since beginning school, and students overall report an increase in happiness and well-being.

It’s also translating well in the more traditional goals of employability, as 80 percent are working upon graduation.

“College is only 4 or 5 percent of your life, and the degree is only a small portion of what you will do with your life,” Hector says. “It seems too narrow to only be focusing on that.”

This article originally appeared in the June 2015 edition of Live Happy magazine.
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