Creating Good Lives at BYU Marriott

PROVO, Utah – Jul 20, 2020 – For many students, college can be a transformative and enlightening time. When Rachel Merrill, a 2020 BYU Marriott experience design and management (ExDM) graduate, took ExDM 300, Creating a Good Life Through Experience Design as a freshman, she wasn’t expecting a class that would change her outlook on life. However, after learning about principles such as the psychology of happiness and the power of intentional choices, Merrill is one of the many students who are enjoying the positive benefits from the popular experience design and management class even after the class has ended.

“The ExDM 300 class was one of the first courses I resonated with at BYU,” Merrill says. “I was struck by the idea that regular family traditions help people be happier, and I loved the thought of being intentional about the life I create. The class made me excited to thrive in life.”

Spearheaded by Brian Hill, a professor of experience design and management at BYU Marriott, the Creating a Good Life course was modeled after the popular Yale University class The Science of Well-Being. Yale’s class is centered around the science and psychology involved in creating happiness, and Hill saw the Yale class as the perfect foundation on which to build using the general fundamentals being taught in the experience design and management field.

“Experience design is all about improving the quality of life for individuals, for families, and for society. That focus led directly to psychology and all the work on happiness,” Hill says. “Then there were other topics, such as connection to technology, time stressors, and rituals that seemed to be relevant in people's lives. Those basics are all kind of coalesced into this one class.”

ExDM 300 uses this combination of topics to teach a primary concept: happiness can be intentionally created by instituting helpful and productive social and behavioral habits. During the class, students learn a variety of techniques, perspectives, and theories that help them create happiness and joy in their own lives. Some of the principles taught include how time management can increase daily happiness, why occasionally disconnecting from technology can be beneficial, and how family traditions can keep people connected with others. 

Since the class’s first semester in Fall 2012, Creating a Good Life has grown from an initial two hundred students enrolled per year to one thousand students during the 2019–20 academic year. Creating a Good Life is offered in fall, winter, and spring semesters with the largest student enrollment in fall and winter semesters when the class is taught in one section and has more than three hundred students each semester. As interest in the class grew, the ExDM department created an online course option that will be available beginning Fall 2020 semester. In addition, because of the increase in popularity and potential benefits for students, Creating a Good Life became recognized as a general education fulfillment this past year.

Hill currently leads the Creating a Good Life section during Fall and Winter semesters with additional professors from the ExDM department teaching during Spring and Summer terms. While the ExDM department is excited about the rapid growth the class has shown, Hill expressed that the real value is not in the class’s popularity but in the lasting effect the class has on the students. “We’re teaching students about embracing and enjoying the full tapestry of what life brings to us,” Hill says.  “Ultimately, we just want people to be happier and this class can help.”

A female student laughs while talking to a friend on campus.
Students enjoy a conversation on campus. Photo courtesy of BYU.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Erin Kratzer