University Prof. Victor Strecher encourages students to focus on happiness

Public health professor Dr. Victor Stretcher discusses ways to "design a happy life" during his motivational presentation at the Michigan League on Monday.

Public health professor Dr. Victor Stretcher discusses ways to "design a happy life" during his motivational presentation at the Michigan League on Monday. Buy this photo
Matthew Vailliencourt/Daily
Monday, March 27, 2017 - 10:02pm

The Vandenberg Room of the Michigan League was overflowing Monday night with students waiting to hear Dr. Victor Strecher, a professor of health behavior and health education in the School of Public Health, speak about “Designing a Happy Life,” an event aiming to speak about personal development.

The event was the inaugural lecture in a series organized by the LSA Student Honor Council, an organization dedicated to the importance of honorable behavior in the context of academia and scholarship, which seeks to hold the event annually.

Strecher attempted to illustrate ways to compute the way to happiness. 

“This is about designing your life,” Strecher said. “(But) I’m not saying I know everything either.”

Strecher asked students to identify their age, and found the crowd was a mix of undergraduate students, graduate students and parents from the community.

“Very likely when you were getting into the University of Michigan, your parents had a résumé for you,” Strecher said. “They had written your résumé for you in their mind. I’m going to take that metaphorical résumé they have for you and tear it up. Because it is not their life. It’s your life.”

Over the course of the next hour, Strecher veered from personal anecdotes to discussion of philosophical texts, drawing from the works of Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, Nietzsche, Buddhist philosophy and his own personal experiences to discuss factors that could lead to personal fulfillment and development.

At one point, Strecher asked the audience to think about their own deaths, taking inspiration from Steve Jobs’ commencement speech to the graduating class of Stanford University in 2005.

“Imagine your memorial service,” he said. “Visualize your headstone with your name on it. What does your epigraph say?”

Eventually, Strecher turned to the idea of finding personal fulfillment. He spoke about the diagnosis of his daughter’s heart condition as the beginning of him living his life with purpose, saying he wanted to give her a big life while it was possible for her, which in turn made him want to live a more involved life.

Closing remarks were followed by large applause from the audience, after which he opened up for questions. 

Business and LSA junior Claire Yerman, the LSA Student Honor Council president, was excited Strecher was able to speak.  

“We reached out to Vick because we knew his deep commitment to talking about purpose and we thought that aligned really well with integrity, which is our main focus,” Yerman said. “We really felt that if he could talk about living your life authentically — which he did — then this really aligns with integrity, because unless you are staying true to yourself and living true to your values, you are really not showcasing integrity.”

Anna Moshkovich, an LSA senior presently taking a gap year, was initially drawn to the talk by emails sent by the Newnan Advising Center.

“I’m doing a gap year and I didn’t know (Dr. Strecher) was so big into gap years,” she said. “I have no idea where I’m going to be placed and it is through a Jewish Peace-Corps-type program. His whole talk was about how we should go out of our comfort zone and do things that scare us.” 

When asked if she felt confident in her current plans after listening to the talk, Moshkovich responded: “100 percent.”