Dr Louise Lambert
Dr. Louise Lambert, PhD, is a Registered Psychologist (College of Alberta Psychologists, Canada), Clinical Supervisor, Researcher and Professor with almost 20 years of experience in counselling, mental health, higher education and research, and primary healthcare. She has lived in the UAE for 10 years doing organizational and educational consulting, as well as teaching and research in happiness and wellbeing, particularly in young people. She has many peer-reviewed empirical publications on the topic, including studies done here in the region and in Canada. Her expertise is in positive psychology and the empirical strategies used to attain greater subjective wellbeing. She is currently the Head of Happiness Programming and Policy Design with HappinessMatters.org, and a professor at the Canadian University Dubai. Her work includes the positive education programs at Dubai College and Kuwait’s Al Nowair Foundation, which specifically addressed wellbeing skills for young people, including teacher training in their delivery. Her previous clients include Masdar, KAUST (KSA), Teacherly (UK), and BSME (British Schools Middle East). Dr. Lambert is the founder and Editor of the Middle East Journal of Positive Psychology, a journal dedicated to regional happiness and wellbeing.
How UAE-based university students conceptualize happiness and what universities can do to improve it?
How happiness is defined depends on who is asked, but in the case of universities, student happiness is often overlooked in favor of customer service satisfaction. The voices of university students stemming from non-WEIRD countries; that is, Western, Educated, Individualistic, Rich, and Democratic, are also not commonly heard. The United Arab Emirates, a country whose population is comprised of nearly 90% expatriate residents, is a good example of such a nation: university campuses are filled by mostly students, faculty members and administration from abroad. As prevailing views of happiness currently found in the literature shape what is considered normative and inform what institutions can do to increase it, it is worth determining what is important to students themselves. Such understandings influence student expectations and behaviors; they also appear to be linked to their mental health status and subjective wellbeing. Qualitative responses from over 100 students revealed that UAE-based university students are happiest around their friends and want more opportunities to connect socially in their classrooms, efforts which can be purposefully crafted by professors. They want to be treated like independent adults, but appreciate guidance and supports nonetheless. They also dislike being considered like mere paying customers and want more consumer respect despite being young. As the UAE is a nation with a short, but evolving history of university life, more research into student happiness as well as the role universities can play in securing it, is worthwhile not only for the mental health of young people, but the economic viability of the UAE as a student-attracting international pole. Such conceptualizations will also contribute to a more complete picture of wellbeing within positive psychology that, while growing, is still lacking in diversity.