The first-ever University of California Well-Being Conference (UCWBC), sponsored in part by an SPSP Small Conference Grant, provided a unique opportunity for researchers across the University of California (UC) system to connect and share their latest findings and insights on the science of well-being.

Held at UC Riverside from March 3–5, 2017, and co-hosted by Dr. Ye Li at the UC Riverside School of Business, the conference brought together approximately 70 faculty members, post-doctoral scholars, and graduate students from the Riverside, Irvine, Berkeley, LA, and Davis campuses. We teamed up to reflect on what contributed to the success of this conference, from the perspective of both an attendee (Jessie) and an organizing committee member (Megan).

The primary aims of UCWBC were to connect well-being researchers across the UC system, and to promote the work of young researchers. To make this happen, only graduate students and post-doctoral scholars were invited to submit talks, which were limited to 5–7 minutes, followed by 10–15 minutes of questions, feedback, and discussion. This format allowed a greater number of emerging scholars the opportunity to share their work with both their peers and more established researchers in a supportive and interactive environment. Reflecting the broad relevance of well-being research, a diverse range of topics and methods were featured, including personality, emotion regulation, culture, technology, close relationships, flow, awe, and affective forecasting.

The presentation sessions were complemented by three open-format discussion sessions centered on topics suggested by attendees: emotions and emotion regulation, opening the file drawer, and the future of well-being science. These sessions sparked critical discussion about big questions in the field of well-being research. For example, how can we create lasting changes in happiness? Should we work towards a consensus on which measures to use for specific well-being constructs? What do well-being self-reports imply about real-world functioning, and should we be measuring more substantive outcomes?

The formal sessions were interspersed with generous breaks and networking opportunities at meals and additional social gatherings. Attendees reported that the relatively small, discussion-focused conference format allowed them to more easily find common ground with other attendees, learn about research being conducted at other UC campuses, and foster new, promising research connections.  

In sum, this small conference provided the opportunity to implement strategic programming considerations (e.g., short talks, lots of discussion, networking breaks) to craft a unique and rewarding meeting that connected well-being researchers across the UC system and promoted the work of graduate students and post-doctoral scholars. We are grateful for the SPSP Small Conference Grant that made this conference both possible and successful, and strongly encourage others to apply for this grant.

Finally, we would like to acknowledge organizing committee members Julia Revord, Lisa Walsh, and Sonja Lyubomirsky, and additional funding from HopeLab and the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, the Department of Psychology, and the Office of Research & Economic Development at UC Riverside.  

To see this year’s UCWBC program and presentations, click here.

Jessie Sun is a PhD student who works with Simine Vazire at the University of California, Davis. Her research explores the interplay between personality, self-knowledge, and well-being, with a focus on methods for studying dynamic processes in daily life (e.g., the Electronically Activated Recorder).

Megan M. Fritz is a PhD student who works with Sonja Lyubomirsky at the University of California, Riverside. Her research examines the effects of positive activities, such as performing acts of kindness and expressing gratitude, on biological indicators of health (e.g., decreases in pro-inflammatory gene expression), as well as improved health behaviors (e.g., healthy eating).