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Finding Nirvana event explores science of happiness

More than 250 post-secondary students from across Canada recently attended Finding Nirvana, a free virtual event exploring the science of happiness that was organized and staged entirely by University of Guelph-Humber Business students.

With a roster of more than a dozen guest speakers from a variety of professional backgrounds – including positive psychologists, mental wellness experts, motivational speakers and entertainers – Finding Nirvana featured a program of fun interactive workshops, virtual contests and live entertainment.

Promoted, planned and staged entirely by business students in UofGH’s “Event Management 2” classes – under the guidance of instructor Aida Memisevic – Finding Nirvana was the culmination of two semesters of work. Students were certainly pleased to see how warmly the event was received by a large and highly engaged audience.

“The event was a huge success and it was one of the most rewarding feelings I have ever felt,” said graduating Business student Ashmi Samlall. “During the event, I was very nervous and excited but once it concluded, I was very proud and happy. The feedback we received from our attendees was extraordinary and it felt so great to be a part of such a wholesome experience.”

Memisevic was ecstatic at how seamlessly her students executed the final event.

"After months of planning, and with the help of the UofGH audio visual team, the final event was truly fantastic. The students amaze me, I have to say,” she said. “This class is a bridge, in my opinion, between academia and the real world. It can be demanding at times for the students, as I wanted to create as real-life a scenario as possible for them."

“I’m honestly really proud of everyone and how well this came together.”

Encouraging positivity

The idea behind the event originated from Memisevic encouraging her students to take some form of positive action in light of the adversity caused by the pandemic. Finding Nirvana sought to help attendees learn about self-care, gain a better understanding of the working of the brain, and create positive habits that they could carry forward in their lives.

Speakers at the event included Dr. Gillian Mandich, founder of the International Happiness Institute of Health Science Research, Canada's positive psychology expert Louisa Jewell, and Dr. M. Gloria González-Morales, Associate Professor of Psychology at Claremont Graduate University, among others. 

“Because of everything we’re going through right now, I thought it was the perfect time to talk about the science of happiness,” Memisevic said.

“I think the topic was perfect for today’s time and today’s students.”

Judging from the feedback received by students, the message of the event certainly did seem to resonate.

“The feedback was really heartwarming to read,” said organizer and graduating Business student Marya Alam. “The audience was so engaging in the comments, which every virtual event dreams to have. We received many Instagram messages talking about how much students enjoyed the event, their favourite moments, pictures and videos of the event, and we had so many students thanking us for providing them with a happy, immersive event.”

Skills in bloom

Working with a $6,000 budget each semester, student organizers had to work together to tackle any number of organizational challenges. Among other responsibilities, students were tasked with dealing with clients and sponsors, persuading other post-secondary institutions to get involved, landing publicity in the press, and negotiating payment fees for suppliers and talent.

“One of the reasons everything went very well is everything was purposeful, well thought-out and rehearsed, as it should be,” Memisevic said.

“This event was student-executed, but the end result was a professional event.”

Student organizers certainly felt that their experience on Finding Nirvana would serve them well in their professional lives.

“Planning this event has helped me to learn so much about the event management industry and it has also allowed me to experience what it would be like to take on a role like this in a professional setting,” Samlall said. “It has also given me a greater appreciation for everyone who works behind-the-scenes in the planning of so many different events that I will never take for granted again.

“I have definitely learned patience, time management and the importance of good teamwork and cooperation. The positive turnout was more than enough to boost my confidence and reassured me that I not only have what it takes to accomplish any task, but that I can do them efficiently while maintaining the highest of standards.”