UC Berkeley faculty to teach United Arab Emirates science of happiness

HaasBy Fionce Siow

The UC Berkeley Center for Executive Education, alongside the Haas School of Business and the campus’s Greater Good Science Center, is teaching 60representatives from the United Arab Emirates, or UAE, on the science of positivity to foster a culture of happiness in their work and lifestyle.

According to Hana AlHashimi, happiness representative for the UAE Permanent Mission to the United Nations, UC Berkeley faculty will teach the UAE’s appointed 60 chief happiness and positivity officers, or CHPOs, about the science of happiness from September 2016 to January 2017. AlHashimi added that the CHPOs being taught are workers from a variety of fields, including the government and the private sector.

“The idea is that our new generation of national leaders that have been selected as chief happiness and positivity officers should be receiving world-class knowledge and practical skills in the field of happiness,” AlHashimi said.

The first module of the five-month program was taught from Sept. 4 to Sept. 9 in Dubai by Emiliana Simon-Thomas, science director of the Greater Good Science Center, and Dacher Keltner, campus psychology professor. According to Simon-Thomas, their lessons for the module revolved around the origins and key facets of happiness.

Simon-Thomas said she believes that the UAE is unique in trying to implement and understand happiness in order to increase the positivity of its population and visitors.

“The Greater Good Science Center has been writing and reporting and offering workshops and trainings on the origins of happiness for 15 years,” Simon-Thomas said. “I don’t think there are many other science centers at other universities that have the same knowledge of … teaching about these topics.”

The UAE chose to work with UC Berkeley and the Oxford Mindfulness Centre because they were identified as institutions with significant expertise in the field.

The UC Berkeley Center for Executive Education declined to comment on the project.

AlHashimi noted, however, that the UC Berkeley program is only one component of the UAE’s five-year National Program for Happiness and Positivity. The national program also aims to approach positivity as a lifestyle and to follow up on and measure the UAE’s national happiness.

The campus’s location, AlHashimi said, is beneficial as well. She added that businesses in the Silicon Valley and Bay Area would provide real-life examples of how companies can potentially create happiness in the workplace.

These cross-cultural exchanges are influenced by an “appreciation for cultural diversity” within the UAE, AlHashimi said, which will, in turn, foster new perspectives.

“Happiness and positivity should be an ultimate objective … in all countries,” AlHashimi said. “This goes beyond just economics but really looking at happiness as an ultimate objective in our economic, social and environmental policies.”

Contact Fionce Siow at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and follow her on Twitter at @fioncesiow.

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