From the Director: Connecting Well-Being and Higher Education

By Don W. Harward, Director, Bringing Theory to Practice Project

“My well-being is my responsibility, not the college’s,” is analogous to, “My learning is my responsibility, not the college’s.” Both statements are, at least in part, correct. So what is the college’s responsibility or role? What connects well-being and higher education?

Well-Being and Higher Education (to appear late summer 2016) will offer a full answer to that question. The essays composing this book will examine and thoroughly analyze various definitions and interpretations of well-being, their expressions or manifestations, and their connection to learning and civic engagement—individually and collectively. The essays explore how campuses could facilitate those manifestations of well-being—citing what makes possible their occurrence and their relevant implications for higher education.

Institutions that give attention to well-being cultivate and sustain a campus culture for learning that exhibits a commitment to public as well as private aims. But how does an institution do so? How does it construct and sustain a culture that exhibits and values individual and community well-being, a deeper and connected sense of the civic, and the purpose of preparing for meaningful life choices—including meaningful work? If students must choose to free themselves, emancipate themselves from ignorance, prejudice, conventionality—how does the institution do the hard task of creating the context for them to choose to learn, to engage, to be well? How does the institution, the academy in general, even the public, champion the expectation that they will choose to do so?

The hard part is that constructing and sustaining a culture requires redirecting resources and realigning priorities. But while this is hard, it is not mysterious. Contributing authors suggest what needs to happen and why. The view that limits the purposes of higher education to training and to utilitarian objectives alone can be addressed; the conversation can be altered and expanded; the greater purposes of higher education can reaffirmed. Attending to well-being begins to do that—and that is a clear objective of Well-Being and Higher Education.

In January 2016, BTtoP will announce the forthcoming publication of Well-Being and Higher Education, and several of its over thirty contributors will participate as panelists at AAC&U’s 2016 Annual Meeting. Below are some of the contributors and topics that will be included in the volume:

Barry Schwartz: “Higher Education and Education in Virtue”

Corey Keyes: “Why Flourishing?”

Laurie Schreiner: “Thriving and Higher Education Learning Experiences”

Elsa Núñez: “Student Well-Being as a Function of Identity Development”

David Schoem: “Teaching Matters: Engaging the Whole Student”

David Scobey: “Well-Being and the New Majority—What Will it Mean?”

Amanda Hyberger: “Well-Being and the Community College Mission”

Martha Kanter: “From the Inside Out—What Are the Necessary Conditions for Change in Higher Education?”

Nance Lucas and Paul Rogers: “The Well-Being University”

Tricia Seifert: “Well-Being and Student Persistence: Reframing Student Success”

Eric Lister: “Institutional Transformation in the Service of Well-Being: A Cross-Cultural Perspective”

Elizabeth Minnich: “Sources and Complexities in Understanding Well-Being”

Kazi Joshua: “Is Well-Being an Individual Matter?”

Thia Wolf: “Student Narratives and Well-Being”

Brian Murphy: “Well-Being, Agency, and the Environment as Community”

Theodore Long: “A Well-Being Campus Discussion”

Kevin Kruger and Stephanie Gordon: “Why Institutional Commitment to Well-Being Bridges the Academic/Student Affairs Divide”

Carol Geary Schneider: “Well-Being, LEAP, and the Promise of Liberal Education”

• John S. Wilson Jr.: “Do We Know What Constitutes a Campus Culture for Connecting Learning to Well-Being? What is Adaptable and Adoptable?”

It is our hope that Well-Being and Higher Education will provide a robust, timely source of insight, perspective, and practiced approaches and applications. The perspectives in this volume may be used to initiate conversations or inform policy decisions, to stimulate directional change or to reaffirm a mission. We also hope this new publication might be a resource for the campus grants that be will awarded over 2016–2017 through BTtoP’s new Request for Proposals at http://bttop.org/grants-funding/funding-opportunities.