Consuming Happiness: A Course for Buying a Better Life

School of Human Ecology professor Christine Whelan, who has taught on everything from gender and marriage to social change, has turned her sights to the pursuit of happiness. What she’s uncovered has become the basis for one of the most talked-about classes on campus, Consuming Happiness.

“Spending money to maximize happiness is the basis for the course,” notes Whelan, who clarifies that happiness is better described as flourishing, thriving, and well-being. “There is lot of economic, psychological, and sociological research to pull into the coursework. But we begin with Aristotle’s classical question ‘What is happiness?’”

With a mix of applied research and hands-on learning, Whelan shows her classes how pro-social spending, buying experiences rather than things, and letting personal values guide financial decisions boosts individual and collective happiness. Students leave her course with an understanding of happiness that can help change how they feel by changing how they spend.

Innovative classes taught by brilliant professors such as Whelan mean UW School of Human Ecology students get an education they’ll find nowhere else. School of Human Ecology graduates leave campus with scientifically grounded knowledge that helps them make a better life — for themselves as well as the people they live and work with. It’s truly an education that works.