New experimental communication course offers the key to happiness

Published by adviser, Author: Amber Cannon - Rocket Contributor, Date: May 1, 2014

Slippery Rock University is bringing a new class to the Communication Department for the Fall semester. The new class, Comm and Well Being, better known as “Happy Talk” will be taught by Dr. James Laux.

The idea for the class came to Laux awhile back when he read a book called Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmilhalyi. Also, the idea developed from watching and following up on a professor at Harvard named Dr. Tal Ben Shahar.

“Professor Tal Ben Shahar created and taught a class called Introduction to Positive Psychology,” Laux said. “After watching and following up on his teachings, I knew that I  wanted to develop a similar course that takes a communication perspective on positive psychology because I could see also that there were a lot of communicative aspects to it.”

Although Comm and Well Being is the appropriate title for the class, Laux has decided to give the class a more fun and appealing name, “Happy Talk.”

“The name for the course actually came to me while I was cutting grass, when suddenly this song popped into my head, “Happy Talk” from South Pacific,” Laux explained. “After I listened to the song, I knew that was it. The name “Happy Talk” really captures the essence of the class, which is how talk is related to human happiness.”

Unlike any other classes that he has taught, Laux explained that the grading for “Happy Talk” is going to be a lot different. If students regularly attend class and complete the assignments, everyone should do well. Assignments in the class are going to range from mini assignments to mini papers based on the material covered in class, but moreover based on applied practices.

“There will not be a whole bunch of objective exams because the goal of the class is to have people happy, and not just like, ‘I’m happier today’, but lifelong happiness,” he explained.

One of the many assignment that is going to be given is a gratitude visit.

“One of the assignments in the class is along the lines of a gratitude visit,” Laux  said. “You’re going to write or type a one page letter to someone in your life who you’d really like to express sincere and heartfelt thanks to. Then you’re going to give it to them and talk with them about it.”

According to Laux, students are expected to gain a lot from this course. He is striving to not only make people happy for the semester, but for the rest of their lives.

“I hope that what students take from this course is a profound, life-changing learning experience,” Laux said. “The objective of this course is to talk, act, think, and be authentically and lastingly happier, so that’s what they should expect from it.”

Although it seems that the number of students currently signed up for Happy Talk is growing each day, many students question whether this class fulfills a liberal studies requirement. Laux stated that this course fulfills upper division credit along with elective credit.

“I’m a little disappointed at the fact that I know some students have been misinformed about the course,” Laux said. “I’ve heard people say they were told that they really shouldn’t take the course because it wouldn’t fulfill any requirements. So, what you’re saying is every course that you take at this university should fulfill a requirement and should be on a check off sheet? That sound pretty absurd to me.”

Any prerequisites to the class will be waived so that anyone who wants to take the class can.

Laux stated that he is going to give it his all to make sure that the class will be a success.

“I’m going to try as mightily as Jim Laux knows how to make sure this class is a success,” Laux said. “I’m going to pour every ounce of energy that I have into this course to make it successful, meaningful and beneficial for the students who sign up for it, but I’ll say this, if it doesn’t succeed, its one hundred percent Jim Laux’s fault.”

Laux hopes to fill the ECB auditorium up with the maximum 93 students, but he stated that whether the class has 93 or three students he would still teach the class wholeheartedly.


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