INTER 125 – The Pursuit of Happiness: The Psychology and Politics of Living Well

Bellevue College offers several interdisciplinary classes which combine ideas from different fields of study to create a single course that fulfills multiple credit areas. These classes are planned by the instructors almost a year in advance, typically getting approved in the winter quarter of the preceding school year. One such class being offered fall 2015 is Interdisciplinary Studies 125 – “The Pursuit of Happiness: The Psychology and Politics of Living Well.”

The course is worth 10 credits. Five of those are a psychology credit for either general psychology or social psychology, where the student picks one or the other. The other credits are in political science as either Introduction to political science or Introduction to comparative politics, where the student again selects one of the two options. Because there are two professors, the maximum students that can enroll is 42, or 21 students per professor. This makes for a smaller student to faculty ratio compared to some other classes.

Interdisciplinary studies 125 will be taught by Tabitha Turowski and Timothy Jones, professors of psychology and political science respectively.

Turowski explained that her half of the class will be looking at “happiness at the individual level, and comparing the two complimentary ideas of hedonia with eudaimonia.” That is, seeking out immediate pleasure and gratification compared to paying attention and focusing on the larger scale views of things like the meaning of life and personal growth.

The political science portion of the class will cover topics such as social justice and citizenship. The class will also take a look at how ideal social and racial equality would change situations and peoples’ views.

Other topics that the course will cover include defining what exactly happiness is, empathy, friendships, self-esteem, achievement and the elements that play a part in having a meaningful life at both the societal and individual level. Overall, IDS 125 will examine the tradeoff between obtaining individual happiness and societal happiness.

Turowski said that the part she is looking most forward to is “covering the paradoxical happiness in the course” that individuals experience when they try to pursue happiness. She went on to explain that the narrowed focus people take on when trying to obtain their own happiness, simply pushes it farther out of reach.

In terms of how Jones wants to approach the course, he said that the class will examine happiness at a micro and macro level, with an interactive discussion based plan that revolves around students gaining knowledge for themselves and formulating their own ideas “rather than simply passively listen[ing] to ours.”

Jones explained two of the things he is looking forward to, besides getting to work with Tabitha Turowski, saying “I am excited to be part of a learning community, to regularly sit in a circle with students and seminar about the readings in the same way that I did as a student at a small liberal arts college.” He also said that “I am excited to explore the factors that contribute to happiness at the individual and societal levels. The last time I taught the course, two years ago, I got to practice being happier myself and it worked – I was happier at the end of the quarter.”