Mercyhurst ushers in 'Year of Happiness'


In recent years, Mercyhurst University has chosen a theme around which to center a variety of activities and events during the academic year. This year that theme is “Happiness.”

In explaining the choice, James Snyder, Ph.D., philosophy department chair, proffered: “Although everything we do seems to be geared toward it, it somehow seems transitory and illusory. Everyone seems to have something to say about it, yet when asked what it is they can’t quite explain it – although they claim to know it when they see it.  So, we ask, as a community of seekers and finders, thinkers and believers: What is happiness?”

Mercyhurst President Thomas Gamble, Ph.D., the Office of Academic Affairs, Campus Ministry and the Institute for Arts and Culture invite the university community to explore the many different aspects of happiness through this schedule of events (complete details, including times and prices, where applicable, to come):

“Aquinas and Natural Law: Resources for Women’s Equality”

Oct. 2, 7:30 p.m., Walker Recital Hall

The Center for Mercy and Catholic Studies brings Catholic theologian and ethicist Lisa Sowle Cahill of Boston College to speak about the relationship between happiness, women and the Catholic tradition. For more information, contact Mary Hembrow Snyder, Ph.D.

“Happiness is Dance”

Nov. 7-10, Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center

The Mercyhurst Dancers perform a series of classical and contemporary dances dedicated to the theme happiness. Guest choreographer Ursula Payne will be joined by Mercyhurst choreographers Melissa Bobick, Tauna Hunter, Noelle Partusch and Mark and Solveig Santillano. Ursula Payne choreography is supported in part by a Mercyhurst Diversity Grant.

Best-selling author to discuss The Happiness Project

Nov. 11, 8:30 p.m., Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center

Author Gretchen Rubin draws on both the wisdom of ancient thinkers and modern scientific studies in her book, The Happiness Project, in which she explains how she devoted a year of her life to the pursuit of happiness. Sponsored by Mercyhurst Student Government, Student Life, the Office of Academic Affairs and the President’s Office, a book signing follows Rubin’s talk. For more information, contact Christina Rieger, Ph.D., chair of the Mercy Mission Reading Project.

“Happiness is ’Tis the Season with Santa’s Toy Shop”

Dec. 6-7, Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center

Get into the holiday spirit with a one-hour narrated presentation of three short works, including two performed by The Mercyhurst Dancers: Babes in Toyland and Santa’s Toy Shop, and one spiritually based performance by the Liturgical Dance Ensemble.


“Happiness is Beyond Words III”

Feb. 28-March 2, Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center

Spend an evening with the Mercyhurst Ballet Theatre and SoMar Dance Works as they bring choreography designed by Lesley Bories-Scalise, James Clouser, Michael Gleason, Tauna Hunter and Mark and Solveig Santillano to life. Event proceeds benefit SAFENET. “Talk Back,” a special opportunity to meet and talk with the dancers and choreographers, follows the performances. George Balanchine choreography is supported in part by Arts Erie and a Mercyhurst Academic Enrichment Grant.

“Happiness is Raw Edges: A Celebration of Twenty/Forty Years”

May 2-4, Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center

Celebrate 40 years of dance at Mercyhurst University while honoring dance chair Tauna Hunter and Michael Gleason, dance department production manager, for their passionate commitment to dance. The Mercyhurst Dancers and alumni will give a tribute performance based on a 20-year collection of choreography designed by both Hunter and Gleason. “Talk Back,” a special opportunity to meet and talk with the dancers and choreographers, follows the performances.

In addition, Mercyhurst has integrated this year’s theme into Freshman Orientation. Freshmen will read and discuss The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. After exploring how the author dedicated each month to improving a different area of her life — finances, work, friendships and mindfulness — they will have the opportunity to hear her speak on campus in November.

Freshmen were also given an opportunity to register for the first interdisciplinary course created around an academic theme. This fall they’ll explore happiness from the perspectives of ancient and contemporary philosophy, psychology and literature through the combined teaching of Gerry Tobin, Ph.D., vice president for student life; Brian Reed, Ph.D., dean of faculty; and James Snyder, Ph.D., chair of the philosophy department.

For more information on the “Year of Happiness,” contact Snyder at or 814-824-3345.


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