By Maya Rosenberg
The University of Maryland’s Bahá’í Chair for World Peace hosted their “Infrastructure and Happiness Conference” April 4 to 5, with the goal of educating both students and faculty about rethinking the way happiness and infrastructure are intertwined.
The Bahá’í Chair, which is an “endowed academic program that advances interdisciplinary examination and discourse on global peace,” hosts numerous panels throughout the year focused on promoting information and tools that lead to a better and more prosperous world.
“One might ask ‘what does happiness have to do with the Baha’i Chair for World Peace?’” Professor Hoda Mahmoudi, director of the program, said. “Well, basically we are interested in how to remove the barriers that exist in society that prevent us from living a more peaceful life.”
According to Mahmoudi, she hoped the view of happiness would be explored through the “collective way” that humans can promote well-being and joy.
“In an ideal world, infrastructure would bring about people’s security, give them access to food and water, things that are essential to life,” Mahmoudi said. “Combining these two, infrastructure and happiness, is extremely important because without the two working together it is impossible to create healthy communities, families, nations and the world.”
The conference, which spanned two days, brought in diverse speakers from all around the world and across professional backgrounds. Speakers ranged in their careers from urban planning, academic faculty, research work and editorial experience.
One of the presenters, Dr. Rodrigo Marquez, serves as the coordinator for the Human Development Report for the United Nations Development Programme in Chile.
According to Marquez, “the word ‘happiness’ in public conversation is fire,” in some situations, as citizens may not take politicians or public officials seriously if they use public happiness as their main reason for accomplishing a task.
“If you change the way you understand happiness in a subject,” Marquez said, “You can increase subjectivity and [increase change].”
Among the panel’s audience were students, faculty members and representatives of the College Park community.
According to freshman sociology and journalism major Hannah Davidson, who was attending the panel to attain extra credit for a sociology course, enjoyed the panel’s concept of trying to reach happiness in society through innovative methods.
While the panel was mainly focused on how to increase the influence of infrastructure on happiness worldwide, Mahmoudi believes the methods discussed during the conference can have positive implications on College Park.
“I do believe that honestly, there’s not a single community, whether College Park or other, that can’t benefit from doing this kind of exploration as to how to create better infrastructure to create happiness,” Mahmoudi said.