By: Whitney Hopler, Communications Coordinator
What if universities all over the world worked together for global well-being? That was the vision the first International Symposium on the Well-Being University explored. The event, which was hosted in June by the University of Lisbon in Portugal and co-sponsored by Mason’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being, featured participants from five different continents.
“The focus was to explore whether or not there could be a common agenda for well-being worldwide,” said Dr. Nance Lucas, the center’s executive director. Such an agenda is indeed promising, she added. “It really showed that there are cultural influences on well-being, but there is also a common commitment to well-being across cultures.”
Dr. James Maddux, a senior scholar at the center and emeritus professor in clinical psychology, said that Mason is in a strong position to lead the way in global well-being efforts because Mason’s Well-Being University initiative is widely respected internationally. “Many universities around the world are encountering the same kinds of challenges as is Mason – that is, large numbers of students who seem unprepared for the challenges and stresses of higher education and an increasingly competitive world. George Mason University is viewed as a leader in helping to provide students with the ‘life skills’ they will need not only to survive and thrive during their time at Mason but also in their lives after their formal education has ended. Other universities around the world are making the same effort.”
The center co-sponsored the symposium with three groups from the University of Lisbon: the Executive Master’s Program in Applied Positive Psychology, the Platform for Public Happiness at the School of Social and Political Sciences, and the Center for Administration and Public Policies – as well as the Borba Municipality (the town where the meetings took place in a 16th century villa and 17th century monastery). As participants exchanged ideas, Lucas said, “There was quite a bit of motivation from everyone in the group to collaborate and support each other’s learning.”
The symposium inspired two potential next steps. Participants are considering working on a book together about global well-being practices, and planning for a possible global well-being conference in Portugal during 2018, said Lucas.
Many wonderful possibilities lie ahead, Maddux said. “We have much to learn from each other, and this conference was a first step in encouraging information-sharing and possible collaboration.”