Don't Worry, Be Happy
UA lecture series aims to teach Tucson community meaning of happiness
A new UA lecture series looks to teach the Tucson community what it means to be happy.
The College of Social and Behavioral Sciences is hosting the Downtown Lecture Series for the first time this year in an effort to engage the community with university research. The series features five speakers, all from different fields, who will bring unique perspectives on the way happiness is perceived.
These free lectures will be held every fall semester, said Lydia Breunig, director of community outreach and special projects for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the primary organizer of the series. The college has already chosen a topic for the 2014 series: food.
“We wanted to take something off of campus and into the community,” Breunig said. “We wanted to bring an educational component to the existing arts and culture and entertainment happening downtown.”
Celestino Fernández, a professor of sociology, will lead the series tonight, covering how happiness differs between gender and ethnic groups and how it has changed over time. Fernández said he hopes the community members learn to apply some of what they take from the series to their own pursuit of happiness.
“We have only one life, and every moment is precious,” Fernández said. “People are going to learn that quite a bit in the lecture series, about how to enhance their quality of life.”
Fernández has taught a class called The Pursuit of Happiness for the past two spring semesters, in which more than 500 students enrolled each semester.
“I think the invitation was based on that experience and the interest that students have in this topic,” Fernandez said. “But it’s not just students. … [There’s] an incredible amount of research in social sciences around the topic of happiness.”
This research will be reflected throughout the series in the speakers’ diverse backgrounds, including philosophy and integrative medicine.
“It’s good to focus on something that’s positive and help people no matter where they are in their lives,” said Esther Sternber, research director at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. “Whether they’re stressed or unhappy or ill or healthy, help people find their own way to happiness.”
Sternberg, the third lecturer of the series, will discuss how place affects people’s well-being and health. Place plays a major role in people’s happiness, Sternberg added.
“It’s a very small word, ‘happiness,’” Sternberg said, “but the series is looking at it in many different dimensions.”
The series is paid for by a group of sponsors including UA departments, local businesses, local media outlets and private donors who contribute to the college. Community members will also get a chance to interact with the speakers through live chats and follow-up weekly community conversations at several Pima County Library branches around Tucson.
“We received a tremendous amount of interest in this topic because so many people can relate to it,” Breunig said. “Everyone wants to be happy.”
If you go:
When: Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 16 to Nov. 13
Where: Fox Tucson Theatre
17 W. Congress St.
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