What Class? Positive Psychology
Who Teaches It? Professor Kim Daubman, psychology
"Positive Psychology brings together Bucknell students and incarcerated students at the State Correctional Institution at Muncy, which is a maximum-security women's prison. The course, which is taught in a prison classroom, focuses on the factors that allow human beings to not just survive, but thrive. I chose to teach this course in a setting that would bring together Bucknell ('outside') students and imprisoned ('inside') students because the topics we cover provide for rich, meaningful discussions that create strong connections between the two cohorts, which might seem disparate on the surface.
"This class is rooted in my long-standing interest in and concern about warehousing people in prisons, and the treatment they receive while incarcerated. Experience has taught me that people on the outside are not all that different from those on the inside. If my life circumstances had been different, I could be sitting in a prison cell instead of a college classroom. People are complex, and some make mistakes — even horrible mistakes — but that does not erase their humanity. I want to provide Bucknell students with an opportunity to question their assumptions and become more curious and critical about what it means to live a happy life, and who deserves a happy life. I also want them to question whether warehousing people in prisons is the best solution to the social problems that contribute to incarceration in the first place.
"Students who take this course do so with faith that it will be a powerful experience, and they will grow from it. The class is very interactive, primarily involving small-group exercises and discussions about questions such as: What brings happiness? How can we live meaningful lives? And what conditions are conducive to happiness? Students are invited to examine these inquiries as they apply to their own lives. Answering these questions leads to deep engagement and inevitably results in emotional bonds forming among the students.
"Although the class centers on the concepts, theories and research in positive psychology, my primary goal is for students to develop compassion for others and for themselves. Both inside and outside students routinely describe the class as transformational, because the course challenges their preconceived notions, compels them to examine themselves, and forges lasting connections between people who may begin the semester believing they have little in common, only to realize they share many similarities and the profound bond of humanity."
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