“Article 9 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan says: ‘The State shall strive to promote those circumstances that will enable the successful pursuit of Gross National Happiness [GNH]'” (Drexler, 2014, p. 53).
Imagine! What if higher education deliberately promoted circumstances that led to Gross Institutional Happiness? Of course, that would mean we would have to somehow measure institutional happiness. So, what would the HLC form or the MnSCU dashboard look like on a Higher Education Happiness measure? What if the WSU community took a lesson from the Kingdom of Bhutan and initiated a measure for happiness?
What is happiness when we think of our lives in higher education and, more importantly, how do we think of happiness here at WSU Winona and Rochester?
For some of us, happiness at WSU is seeing our students succeed in class and in life. For others, it is bringing students, faculty, and staff to WSU in successful recruiting and marketing efforts. Others would point to our beautiful Winona campus and our Rochester, Austin, and La Crescent outreach sites. Some would say happiness is engaging minds and bodies in service learning, the arts, or research. Some of us find happiness in a job well done, whether it is polishing the same entryway every season, creating a tasty meal, keeping the mysteries of the network running smoothly or getting the 10-millionth student online. Many find that simply helping others to fulfill their potential to be the true path to happiness (and helping can take so many forms! From teaching, to advising, to comforting and finding a new direction when all seems lost).
A very few may define happiness as collecting their paycheck with little else to motivate their participation in the WSU community. I have to wonder about the general happiness of that group, at home and at work. Drexler notes that many in Bhutan also worry about these few unhappy and unwilling: “Can a nation be happy if individuals are not? Can individuals be happy if others suffer? Will the country’s traditional foundations of happiness erode, to be replaced by a surfeit of stuff?”
In reality, there are always a few folks who are unhappy and unwilling to engage found in every aspect of human endeavor. The good news is, their numbers are small in Bhutan as well as here at WSU. And …well… you know what? Our collective happiness is not contingent upon 100% buy-in from the unwilling.
Does this mean I work with the willing and “play favorites?” You bet! And everyone can be one! And the even better news? No matter how unhappy and unwilling, these folks will always be invited to join in, become a favorite, and be happy. That’s what makes me happy: helping folks find a different way of thinking, seeing people discover that one “thing” that gets them jazzed up, excited, re-energized, engaged in the university’s work, and…happy!
So, what does all of this happy talk really mean for WSU? Are we really going to try to quantify happiness? Will HLC and our system office add a happiness metric to our required assessments?
Whew…That does give one pause, doesn’t it? But seriously, I think we have already set up a framework that can lead to relevant and useful measures for success, excellence, and…yes, happiness. The work we will do together this year and beyond to build a clear road map for WSU’s future has begun. As I read the article on Bhutan and dug a little deeper into this thing called happiness, I noticed an interesting thing (to me anyway). I noticed how our draft framework for setting the strategic direction of Winona State University curiously relates to Bhutan’s framework for national success and their framework for measuring happiness:
|The Fourth King’s conception of Gross National Happiness rested on four “pillars”:
||WSU’s conception of our new strategic directions rests on the Five P’s:
|The GNH policy has nine “domains”:
|WSU has identified six “themes”:
I think you can see how connected these two frameworks can be, at least at first glance. So yes, we do have both a foundation and framework such that we can measure WSU happiness.
(Just as an aside: Looking for a GREAT PARTY IDEA? Well, gather your friends and engage in a cross-walk activity, connecting Bhutan’s pillars and WSU’s themes; Bhutan’s domains and the WSU Five P’s. Fun!)
My point (and I do have one) is that we are …right now… engaged in a collective and positive endeavor to bring our particular institution of higher learning to its next levels of excellence. Our strategic directions framework captures real data from all of us over the last two years. We are now working to refine the goals and objectives and begin a more formal process for implementing the plans. 2014-2015 is THE year! NOW is the time to hit it out of the park. We are ALL in the education business as both teachers and learners, preparing people for their next levels of personal excellence and potential. This is a very high and noble calling! It has great meaning and contributes to our own personal health, wellness, and sense of engagement. Remember:
“Happier people are more likely to live longer and tend to be healthier, more successful, and more socially engaged than people who describe themselves as less happy” (What is happiness?, 2009).
From what I have seen so far, the WSU Happiness Metric is pretty darned close to 100%.
Be happy out there!
Drexler, M. (2014, Fall). The Happiness Metric. Tricycle, 53-103. The full article is also available on the internet at: http://www.tricycle.com/feature/happiness-metric
What is happiness? (2009) This emotional life. Available: http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/topic/happiness/what-happiness