Coursework

COBE faculty have come together to design several interdisciplinary courses related to behavioral and emotional health and wellbeing:

The Science of Happiness

 

“Thank you for a truly amazing class. I have learned so much about myself and others. This is my last semester at VCU and this has been my most favorite” (Anonymous student, Spring ‘16)

Transitioning from high school to college is a major developmental task. The challenges include independence from adult supervision, new friendships, and exposure to a unique culture of academic pressure, relative freedom with access to leisure time activities that include both positive and negative elements. Anxiety/depression, problems with substance use, and mental illness often make their presence known in this period. It can be a time of high stress and tension but also a time for unprecedented opportunity to discover strength and resilience that sets us on a positive trajectory on the stage of life. This course examines the state of college student mental health and wellness on a personal and systems level. This class is an opportunity to re-evaluate your beliefs, values, and assumptions, and to do so in the context of learning about the science behind health and wellness. In this course we look at how individuals can create positive change by reinterpreting their goals and identifying steps towards having a successful experience in college and beyond. Key findings from the fields of positive psychology and the study of mental illness will inform our understanding of the biopsychosocial underpinnings of well-being.

This 3-credit course is listed through The University College (UNIV 391). Fall semesters are reserved primarily for students in the Thrive Community, but if slots are available we will allow others to join the fall sections. Spring enrollment is open to all; we welcome students from all majors and at all undergraduate levels. Simply go to eServices to sign-up. But, do it soon! Spaces fill up quickly.

For more information, read the syllabus and a story about the class from VCU News.

Flourishing

The Science of Happiness“This course was exceptionally helpful…I really enjoyed how it went deeper than just the surface of “being the best you can be”, and really dove into the science and research  findings behind flourishing. We didn’t just do yoga or work on coloring pages to have fun and pass time, we did it to reinforce the science and facts we learned about mindfulness and how it can help with achievement and success.” (Anonymous student, Fall ‘16)

This course examines the state of college student mental health and wellness on a personal and systems level. It provides an opportunity for students to re-evaluate their beliefs, values and assumptions, and to do so in the context of learning about the science behind health and wellness. Key findings from the fields of positive psychology will inform students’ understanding of the biopsychosocial underpinnings of well-being.

This 1 credit course is reserved for freshmen students in the Honors College and is run each fall and spring. If you are not in the Honors College, we suggest you look into “The Science of Happiness,” also run by COBE faculty.

Yoga and Mindfulness: Skills for On and Off the Mat

This class curriculum is drawn from a well-researched, evidence-based model called Kripalu Yoga in Schools (KYIS).  KYIS offers students the opportunity to actively participate in yoga and mindfulness practices that foster self-management and self-regulation skills.  The skills learned on the mat and in the classroom setting are meant to be used off the mat in everyday life. The purpose of the course is to teach students healthy skills to manage stress, increase self-awareness, and build community with others.  The curriculum is completely secular and incorporates mind-body practices such as mindfulness, breathing exercises, warm- ups, experiential activities, yoga postures, deep relaxation, and meditation techniques.

This 1-credit, special topics course (HPEX 291) is open to all majors. This course is very popular and spaces fill up fast! Click here to read the syllabus and learn more about the course.

Spit for Science: Conducting and Understanding Research

In the fall of 2011 VCU launched Spit for Science: the VCU Student Survey. This project is following consecutive cohorts of incoming VCU freshman classes across their college years and beyond. The goal of the project is to understand how genetic and environmental factors come together to influence a variety of health-related outcomes in the VCU undergraduate population.

A big focus is on substance use and emotional health problems, such as depression, since the life stage that college students are entering is a high risk period for the onset of these problems. Research assistants will be involved in project-related tasks, which may include recruitment, marketing, data collection and analysis, educational events and other research activities.

Students will work in teams to develop research questions and analyze Spit for Science data. Online activities will include blogging and use of social media to read and evaluate research articles, interact with faculty and staff about research and wellness, reflect on your experiences and course journey, investigate current events and issues related to the goals of Spit for Science research, and communicate with peers about scientific research.

Classes will also include meetings with different faculty involved in the project where students will review research papers and learn about topics related to the goals of the research.

This 3-credit course is run each fall and spring semester through Psychology (Psyc 494) and Biology (BIOL 391). Registration in the course is by application only. Contact Dr. Amy Adkins (adkinsae@vcu.edu) for an application. The process is highly competitive, but we welcome students from all majors and class levels to apply.

Click here to read the syllabus and an article about the class on the COBE blog!

Love and Drugs: The Science Behind Media Portrayals of Romance and Substance Abuse

We are surrounded by popular media portrayals likening love to mind-altering
substances—Billie Holiday’s lover goes to her head; Beyoncé is drunk in love; the Weeknd compares his lover to the anesthetic Novocain.

In this course, we will examine the science behind portrayals of romance and substances of abuse in popular music and movies using developmental, social psychological, and neurobiological perspectives. We will cover topics such as the neurobiology of love and addiction; the effects of relationships on substance use; and the effects of substance use on relationships. At the end of the course, students will use these perspectives and knowledge to critically review a song or movie of their choice.

This 1-credit, 5 week course is offered through Psychology (HUMS 391) and is restricted to Psychology majors or minors. To find out when it will be offered again, please contact Dr. Jessica Salvatore (jesalvatore@vcu.edu).

To learn more about the course check out the syllabus here and an article written by VCU News!

Genes, Environment and Human Behavior

Have scientists solved the nature vs. nurture debate when it comes to human behavior? If a disorder runs in families, how do we know whether the cause is genetic or a result of the family environment? Are intelligence and personality hardwired? This course will explore these questions and more as we study human behavioral genetics. In particular, we will discuss how genes influence our behavior and what role the environment plays. We will also study dimensions of human behavior, ranging from IQ and personality to clinical disorders such as alcoholism. Positive and negative factors contributing to each dimension will be investigated as we seek connections to our personal experiences, other coursework and the world around us.

This 1-credit, 5 week course is offered through Psychology (HUMS 391) and is restricted to Psychology majors or minors. To find out when it will be offered again, please contact Dr. Amy Adkins (adkinsae@vcu.edu)

To learn more about the course read the syllabus here.