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Student Experiences

Experiencing the Good Life

Walking timidly into the Tanner Building for her first class of her freshman year, Melissa Trautman didn’t know what to expect from the class or from her future BYU experience. She hoped the course title, Creating a Good Life, would come to literal fruition, but she had no idea the significant impact the class would have on her life.

Two years later, Trautman is the head teaching assistant for the class and encourages every student to take ExDM 300 their first semester.

Students at a BYU football game cheering at the camera

“Because of this class, I learned that life doesn’t happen to me—it’s something I can choose to do every day,” Trautman says. “The class helped me create a personal motto:
When the Department of Experience Design and Management moved under the BYU Marriott School of Business umbrella in 2012, Brian Hill started working with fellow faculty members and students to design an introduction course to recruit students to the major. With the help of his daughter, Mariah, a philosophy student at BYU at the time, Hill incorporated the science of happiness and well-being to illustrate foundational principles in the experience design field.

Every moment in my life can be a good experience if I’m intentional about it. I get to design my life, and I don’t have to be unhappy. I was so glad I took the class my freshman year.

“Learning what social sciences know about happiness and infusing it with principles of the gospel resonates with students,” says Hill.

Crowd at the Marriott Center listening to a devotional

Since the creation of the course in 2012, students have spread the word among friends, increasing class occupancy rates from 238 per school year to more than 800. In addition, ExDM 300 has recently been approved as a fulfillment for the global and cultural awareness general requirement, which will create even more growth. Hill hopes to increase the number of students who take the class every year to 1,000 by getting approval for more sections, including an online version.

The course offers hands-on projects that promote the application of experience design principles and positive psychology. A semester-long project titled “Designing Your BYU Experience” encourages students to earn points by participating in events such as devotionals, concerts, one-on-one meetings with professors, and sporting events. “The projects forced me to become involved and set a good course for what my BYU experience would look like,” Trautman says.

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The class incorporates the science of happiness and well-being with experience-design principles.
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Along with designing their BYU experience, students learn how to design their life by creating life goals. Using positive psychology, behavioral principles, and design-thinking materials from Stanford University, Hill guides students in designing a five-year plan.

“This course is particularly relevant to the generation of students who are at BYU right now,” Hill says. “This generation of students is looking for answers related to personal happiness, and the course teaches and validates what we understand about happiness and well-being. I want students to leave with the idea that they can intentionally choose behaviors to experience a good life.”


Article written by Heidi Steele