Spreading the Joy

Contact: Kristen Volkland

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Spreading the Joy: Candidates for Master of Arts in Happiness Studies at Centenary University Already Making an Impact in the United States, Ukraine, and Around the World

Grounded in science and research, world’s first advanced degree in the field enrolls more than 150 students from 15 countries


Dale Caldwell, Ed.D

HACKETTSTOWN, NJ, Sept. 13, 2023—Soon after Centenary University announced the introduction of the world’s first Master of Arts in Happiness Studies in early 2022, inquiries about the virtual program began to pour in from potential students and media around the world. Enrollment soon exceeded the University’s expectations, and today, the fully-accredited program enrolls more than 150 students from 15 countries, including South Africa and Vietnam, as well as other nations in Europe and South America. The master’s candidates range in age from 24 to 70 and represent a broad array of disciplines, from doctors and therapists to managers and attorneys.

Program Director Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D., has taught courses on positive psychology, the psychology of leadership, and happiness studies at Harvard University, Columbia University, and Centenary University. He says there’s never been a better time to advance the field of happiness studies. Recent world events, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, as well as other less cataclysmic factors like social media use, are contributing to increased stress levels among people of all ages. “There is most definitely a mental health crisis,” explained Dr. Ben-Shahar, the author of several best-selling books on happiness studies. “This is too important a field to be at the mercy of self-help and the New Age movement. We know that if you increase the levels of happiness, innovation and creativity go up significantly. So for these reasons, and many others, happiness or focusing on the well-being of employees is no longer a luxury. It’s a necessity.” 

Now, Centenary is preparing to graduate its first cohort of 90 students from the Master of Arts in Happiness studies this spring. Yet the multidisciplinary program, which is grounded in science and research, is already making a measurable impact around the world. Student Alla Klymenko is a psychologist who fled to the United States from Ukraine after the war broke out last year. A psychologist, she partnered with Dr. Ben-Shahar and several other colleagues to create a free online resiliency course for Ukrainians. Another student, Jim Schatzle, is a paramedic and CEO of a New Jersey safety training company. He said he’s applied what he’s learned at work and home. “It’s affected every aspect of my life, from parenting to being CEO of a company,” Schatzle explained. 

The emotional resilience promoted within the Master of Arts in Happiness Studies has also begun to inform Centenary’s broader approach to higher education. Dale Caldwell, Ed.D., who assumed the presidency of Centenary on July 1, has incorporated emotional well-being as one of three core competencies in the educational objectives for all Centenary students. “The world is changing by the second, so merely teaching standard ‘job skills’ just doesn’t cut it for universities anymore,” explained Dr. Caldwell, who attended a conference on positive psychology soon after arriving at Centenary. “The most successful college graduates are equipped with intellectual curiosity, intercultural competence, and emotional resilience—the most important element. It’s about the ability to adapt to change and overcome challenges, while having the courage to test your limits. That’s the heart of the Centenary brand and—with the world’s foremost expert in happiness studies on our campus—we are uniquely positioned to deliver on that promise.”

The University is enrolling its next cohort of students for the Master of Arts in Happiness Studies slated to begin on April 29, 2024. For more information, click here



Centenary University offers extraordinary learning opportunities that empower students to develop intellectually, emotionally, and interculturally—keys to career and personal success. 

Under the leadership of President Dale Caldwell, Ed.D., the University aspires to advance its reputation as a world class institution offering innovative programs, including the world’s first Master of Arts in Happiness Studies, to lift the future for our students and local communities. 


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