“It took off in just about a heartbeat,” says Evans, who oversees instruction with help from guest lecturers and a small army of student volunteers, who lead discussion groups. Today, 17% of seniors enroll in “Designing Your Life,” and many more vie for the limited seats in each section. “We’ve had students literally teach the class on the side to their friends who weren’t enrolled,” he says.
Evans divides the course into two parts: first, he says, “We reframe the problem. That’s where dysfunctional beliefs get blown-up. Then we give them a set of tools and ideas to take steps to start building the way forward.” Each course section convenes for one quarter, two hours per week.
Here’s what they learn: gratitude; generosity; self-awareness; adaptability. All reinforced by design thinking-based tools, from a daily gratitude journal to a deck of cards featuring problem-solving techniques. In lieu of a final exam—the class is pass/fail—students present three radically different five-year plans to their peers. Alumni say they still refer back their “odyssey plans”—a term that Evans coined—and revise them as their lives and careers progress.
Maqubela eventually found out that he had played a role in his now-wife’s odyssey plan—but at the time, “she wouldn’t show it to me.” Today, they still reference “Designing Your Life” when making decisions together. “Building your life around somebody else, and orienting around love as part of one’s career, is part of the class,” he says.
For years, students have resisted this kind of overlap between university-sponsored programs and their private lives. After the Civil War, mandatory chapel disappeared, academics rather than ministers became university presidents, and courses like “Evidences of Christianity” vanished from the required curriculum.
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