In one chapter of “In Pursuit of the Good Life in College,” Penn professor Dustin Brisson describes the troubles of a student named “Sara.”
“With only 1.5 semesters remaining to complete her bachelor’s degree, Sara finally admits to herself something she has known for years: She does not want to be a physician. Even though she earned solid grades in the pre-med track, Sara has not enjoyed a single course, and she dreads the prospect of five more years of medical training.”
“Sara” is not a real person, but rather a fictionalized representation of many students Brisson has met and gotten to know in his nearly two decades in the School of Arts & Sciences’ Department of Biology. In what he describes as a “COVID project,” Brisson consolidated notes from his years of teaching and advising to create a guidebook for undergraduates aimed at helping them achieve success and well-being.
Each of the book’s 16 main chapters opens with an anecdote about a challenge faced by a fictional student, like Sara, and offers advice for addressing it. Peppered with quotes from sources as varied as ancient philosophers to modern psychologists and authors, the chapters all conclude with interactive exercises that prompt the reader to put into practice what they have learned.
Brisson spoke with Penn Today about the book’s origins, the philosophy that guides his advice, and why he wished he had such a tool during his undergrad days.
‘In Pursuit of the Good Life in College’ is available online. (Press ‘request access’ to Google Drive.)
“In Pursuit of the Good Life in College”
Table of Contents
1. Attend College for the Right Reason
2. Defining Yourself Is Holding You Back
3. Possibilities are Limitless, and Overwhelming
4. Choose Your Friends Wisely and With Patience
5. Intrinsic Motivation
6. Busyness is Not Productive
7. Effective Studying
8. Test Anxiety
9. Competition among students
10. Ask for Help and Guidance
11. Grade Uncertainty Mid-semester
12. Long-Term Course Planning
13. Growth, Change, and the Authentic Life
14. The Incessant Barrage of Courses Eroding Your Motivation
15. Deep, Meaningful Projects
16. Stop asking what I will do next