BY: PHILIP WILKERSON
During the past few years, my interest in the study of well-being and holistic wellness has blossomed. I have subscribed to journals and podcasts, and I have spent numerous hours diving into the aspects of life that make people happy. One course I recommend is the Science of Happiness EDx course offered by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. Over time, this study has shaped my viewpoint on the world and the way I interact with others. It has also shaped the trajectory of my life and how I view my career, my life as a parent, and my involvement with helping students at Mason.
I don’t mean to oversimplify the work done by numerous social scientists, but I have concluded that happiness/mental wellness is heavily influenced by two factors: A sense of belonging and a sense of purpose. I reached out to two students in Mason’s student-run Well-Being Team, program assistants Jenise Blount and Hadley Graham, to gather their thoughts on these two aspects as they pertain to their experiences here at Mason. Below are their responses:
How has Mason contributed to your sense of belonging?
Jenise: One of the biggest ways in which Mason has enhanced my sense of belonging is through finding organizations that I feel align to my values and that lets me be surrounded by other people who have the same passions that I have regardless of different opinions and/or backgrounds. I have learned so much about myself through being involved in organizations like the Well-Being Team and Student Health Advisory Board, but one of the greatest things I learned was how I can contribute to a bigger cause through the sense of community and belonging that organizations on campus [provide] for us.
Hadley: Mason has a plethora of organizations, clubs and events, whether it’s academia-related or not, [so] that everyone can find their niche. It was incredibly easy to find a group who has the same passions or interests as me. I am a part of the Mason Kinesiology Club and was interested in becoming a club officer. Our department and faculty advisor supported us throughout our endeavors with the club and personally strengthened my sense of belonging. Mason has plenty of resources and opportunities to allow me to explore beyond my own passions and learn about other organizations and how we are all interrelated as one Mason community. It really has truly helped me become more involved on campus.
How has Mason contributed to your sense of purpose?
Hadley: Mason is incredibly inclusive for all students from all walks of life. I feel the university has really helped us as students, and as the Well-Being Team, [giving] us tools to explore our educational interests and passions within the Mason community. The diversity of on- and off-campus resources and events makes it very easy and comfortable plugging into groups and people with similar interests or who can help you find what you’re looking for. I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with my academic advisor, my professors, my supervisors, who support me and are genuinely interested in my success and progress at Mason.
Jenise: I think Mason has helped me to expand my vision of how I want my life purpose to be. Through my major, the organizations I’ve joined and the resources I’ve used on campus, it has all helped me develop the ways in which helping others brings a sense of purpose in my life. This university has helped me to learn how I can continue to gain a sense of purpose after graduation through not only my career but my day to day lifestyle.
In conclusion, the students within the Well-Being Team have had positive experiences on campus due to the influence of belonging and purpose. Here’s a few questions you can ponder:
- Do I feel as though I belong within the Mason community? If so, what groups have helped fostered that sense of belonging? If not, who can I reach out to feel connected? (classmate, roommate, professor, faculty/staff, club/organization, etc.)
- Do I have a sense of purpose here at Mason? Do I enjoy what I am studying? Do I have career goals post-graduation? Do I volunteer in the community? Do my actions today make a difference in the lives of others? (Just helping the life of one person matters.)
Please look out for the Spring into Well-Being (#SIWB20) programs running from March 20 to April 22. We will have a calendar of daily commitments throughout the month as well as hundreds of Spring into Well-Being events to help the Mason community learn about, and practice, well-being.
Philip Wilkerson is Manager of Industry Advising and Employer Development with the University Career Services office.