Fall 2017: A Life Worth Living: The Theory and Practice of Human Flourishing- RELG/ELA 1559

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Fall 2017: A Life Worth Living: The Theory and Practice of Human Flourishing- RELG/ELA 1559


Tue. Aug 22, 2017 - Tue. Dec 5, 2017 (16 weeks)
Every Monday, Wednesday from 11:00 AM to 11:50 AM


Gibson Hall 211


The mnemonic for this course is RELG/ELA 1559.

How do your undergraduate years relate to creating a life that is worth living - becoming insightful, learned, creative, caring, ethical, resilient, engaged, and deeply well?  What does it mean not to simply survive, but to flourish? What practices help you to embrace and to cultivate things like focus, compassion, courage, wisdom, and diversity while managing anxiety and optimizing performance?

This course aims to directly assist you in finding the answers to these questions for yourself. It will help you to build a sustainable base for flourishing during your undergraduate years and beyond in your personal, civic, and professional life. In the course, you will explore scientific, philosophical, and artistic ideas about flourishing, while experimenting with contemplative practices that work directly with your mind, body, emotions, and relationships. Together we will investigate the cultivation of flourishing according to a model with five dimensions and fourteen qualities:

  1. Awareness: mindfulness, emotions, focus 
  2. Wellbeing: happiness, resilience 
  3. Connection: interdependence, compassion, diversity 
  4. Wisdom: identity, values, inspiration 
  5. Embodiment: courage, performance, integration

Each week of the semester we will explore one of these fourteen qualities to understand it from scientific and humanistic perspectives; we’ll experiment with practices to personally cultivate your skills and experiences towards developing this quality, and then we’ll further explore how those skills can be applied in your everyday life.

Ultimately, this exploration will lead to expanded self-awareness and self-understanding. Such exploration can lead to greater capacity to leverage one’s own inherent capacity for growth, in order to become more resilient, flexible, balanced, and compassionate. The experiences of this course will prepare you to learn more effectively, form more healthy and caring relationships in your personal life, perform at more optimal levels in your chosen pursuits, and find purpose and passion in your studies, career, and lifelong growth. 

This course is open to students from all schools, from all disciplines and intended majors, and welcomes students of all types and backgrounds. The only prerequisite is a curiosity about your life and its possibilities. With questions about this course, please send an email to  David Germano ( and copy (cc:) Moira Johnson ( Moira is coordinating the larger project of developing the course through a partnership between UVA, the Penn State University, and the University of Wisconsin.

All students will attend the main section Monday & Wednesday, 11:00-11:50 am and register for one of three contemplative lab sections:

  • Thursday  4-4:50 PM at Slaughter Rec 115A MP1
  • Friday     10-10:50 AM at McLeod Hall 2010
  • Friday     11-11:50 AM at McLeod Hall 2010

* 3 credits, graded course for UVA students, limited to first-year students.