The inspiration for Chris Palmer’s incredibly popular course, Design Your Life for Success, came from a student at the American University School of Communication (SOC), where Palmer teaches and is director of SOC’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking.
The course's beginnings can be traced back to an email from student Reagan Kolakowski, who had just finished reading Palmer’s book "Now What, Grad? Your Path to Success After College."
Kolakowski asked in the email, "Professor Palmer, when are you going to give a class on the topic of how to find success and fulfillment in life, because I think it would be really helpful?"
Palmer took the idea to SOC Associate Dean Laura Bondurant and Associate Dean Bobbe Baggio at the School of Professional & Extended Studies, and together, they developed and launched the course.
When it was first offered in fall 2016, Palmer expected 10-15 students, but the class swelled to 60.
"There is a deep hunger out there among students, staff, and faculty to grapple with the question 'What does an honorable, rewarding, and high-achieving life look like and what is the best to achieve it?'" Palmer said.
Palmer said that what he enjoyed the most about the course so far is getting to know the participants, who he describes as 'incredibly diverse' and helping them find a more satisfying, less stressful life.
He is a strong advocate for people helping one another to be successful. "I’ve learned that despite outward appearances, there is an incredible amount of suffering and pain just under the surface. We need to help each other more and show more empathy," he said.
AU Professorial Lecturer Sorángel Rodríguez-Velázquez said the energy from the non-credit course helped her understand her plans better, and inspired her to identify goals to launch her dream project.
"I am developing a workshop to share my experiences about how education changed my life and hopefully inspire others to follow their dreams. I also started to write a book about my journey," she said.
The next workshop will start March 30, and Palmer has already made a note of what he wants his course to accomplish this semester.
"To have all the participants make significant progress on working out how to make sense of their lives, how to find fulfillment and peace, and how to spend more time on things that matter deeply to them," he said.
Palmer delivered on those aims in the fall course, according to George Marshall, online content manager at SOC, who said the course helped him identify his goals, create plans and execute them.
"Chris instructed us to craft a personal mission statement that laid out those things that are most important to us so that we can hold ourselves accountable on a weekly basis and avoid drifting off course. He emphasized practicing many valuable skills, like prioritizing things that are important rather than things that are urgent," he said.
AU alumna Molly Doyle said that the course would be beneficial for any soon to be grad, recent graduate or young professional as it helps mold one’s career path to become successful.
"I hope many will take advantage of the opportunity to cut through traditional concepts of success and achievement, and get a head start on discovering and working toward is truly meaningful to them," she said.
The workshop is free and open for anyone to register.