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Getting Happier in Miami

This weekend, the World Happiness Summit (WOHASU), in partnership with the University of Miami, will host more than a thousand people from all over the world introducing and discussing the latest information and research on the science of happiness and well-being. Featuring more than 30 speakers and thought leaders, including Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D., Shawn Achor and Sonja Lyubormirsky, Ph.D., the third annual summit will be held at the University of Miami, March 15 through 17.

Karen Guggenheim, founder and Chief Operating Officer of the World Happiness Summit, says she hopes this year’s event will manifest beyond the summit, giving people the practical tools to live happier, healthier lives. “What feels like drops of positivity, is actually a stream that has the potential of becoming a river and then an ocean,” Karen says. “We gather together to collectively grow the global happiness movement into a counterculture that will create new mindsets and make the world a better place.”

Isaac Prilleltensky, Ph.D., and professor vice provost for Institutional Culture at U of M and author of the Laughing Guides to Well-Being, Change, and a Better Life, believes the summit brings together like-minded people with the collective goal to make lasting change in a positive way. Growing in attendance every year with more than 40 countries represented, Isaac continues to be impressed with the nature and quality of the presentations.

One thing different at this year’s three-day event, best-selling author and positive psychology expert Tal Ben-Shahar, will be bringing his entire online class from the Happiness Studies Academy to experience the summit. Isaac, who is also a student of the online program, says he is excited to meet his classmates in person. “We are all students of this terrific online program, so there will be a meeting of online friends,” he says. “Bonds are being created and people are reacquainting themselves. It’s like a movement growing.”

Degrees of Happiness

Conceived from the collaborative synergy that takes place at the WOHASU events, Karen, Isaac and several others at the university are currently working to introduce an interdisciplinary degree plan for happiness studies. If approved by the university, students will have to ability to receive a graduate degree in the science of happiness that is applicable to multiple career paths.

“Karen from WOHASU is a wonderful partner in bringing together many communities of people interested in the pursuit of integrative happiness and well-being,” Isaac says. “I thank Karen for championing with enthusiasm the partnership with the University of Miami, where the summit takes place.”

Some universities have and do offer individual classes on happiness and well-being, including the popular courses from Laurie Santos, Ph.D., at Yale and Tal Ben-Shahar at Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania does offer a Master of Applied Positive Psychology graduate program. U of M, Isaac says, will be first the institution in higher education to offer an interdisciplinary graduate program solely focusing on happiness studies.  

 “The goal is to equip students taking the program with the tools necessary to make their own lives workplaces and communities happier and healthier places,” Isaac says. “You don’t have to necessarily change your career. Everyone can benefit from a program in well-being.”

With hopes of creating more agents of change, Isaac’s goal is to make the information widely accessible, including fundraising and scholarships. “The emphasis for well-being for all is very much part of our philosophy,” he continues. “We want to make sure the program is affordable to a wide variety of people, and not just to individuals who can afford hefty university tuition costs.”

Isaac believes Miami is the right place for this type of program because of the inclusivity and dedication to student and faculty well-being through intergroup dialogue programs, a culture of belonging and acceptance, as well as ongoing research into well-being.

“Once we accept everybody, we free up this tremendous human energy for creativity, engagement and involvement,” he says. “That is really quite remarkable.”

If approved, the well-being program at the U of M could be available to students by next January.

For more information, visit the summit website. For a 20 percent discount on passes, enter code LIVEHAPPY2018.

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