Downtown Lecture Series


About the Downtown Lecture Series

In the Fall of 2013, the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS) hosted the first annual Downtown Lecture Series at the Fox Theater.  The one-hour lectures, presented by UA faculty, were held on Wednesday evenings for five consecutive weeks in October and November. 
The goals of the lecture series are two-fold.  The first goal is to broadly share research happening at the UA that enhances the human condition.  In service to this goal, the series will annually explore a subject that shapes our daily well-being – such as childhood, food, community – from different vantage points. This year the subject will be “happiness.”  Articles, blogs, books, talk shows, and documentaries on this subject have grown in popularity as people increasingly seek guidance on how to be happy and information about the relationship between happiness and well-being.  UA Faculty will explore the complexities of “happiness” by sharing insights from their diverse fields of study, including psychiatry, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, and integrative medicine.  In addition to the live lectures, the series will be recorded by Arizona Public Media and posted online as a podcast.
The second goal of the lecture series is to support our community’s private and public investment in a vibrant city center.  By bringing an educational series of events to downtown Tucson, we hope to draw new patrons to local merchants and support the growing sense of excitement that good things are happening downtown. The lecture series will be widely promoted in Tucson to engage an audience large enough to potentially fill the Fox Theater (capacity 1,200). Although produced by the UA, this is truly a community event.  To promote the series, the College of SBS is partnering with the Fox Theater Foundation, Downtown Tucson Partnership, Ben’s Bells, City High School, 2nd Saturdays Downtown, as well as downtown restaurants and merchants.   

About the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

The College of SBS studies our connections – with each other, with our past, and with the world around us – to reveal the complexity of interactions that shape the human condition.  Its research addresses issues related to healthy families and secure communities, global conflict and poverty, and environmental change.  SBS also equips its more than 4,500 students with the critical thinking and problem-solving tools they will need to tackle these important issues. With eight graduate programs ranked in the top 25 nationwide, SBS is home to some of the UA’s most prestigious departments.
SBS units include Anthropology, Communication, Sociology, Geography and Development, 
Government and Public Policy (including the National Institute for Civil Discourse), History, Gender and Women’s Studies, Information Resources and Library Science, Journalism, Judaic Studies, Late Medieval and Reformation Studies, Latin American Studies, Linguistics, Mexican American Studies, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Middle Eastern and North African Studies, Philosophy (including the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom),  the Southwest Center, and the Southwest Institute for Research on Women. 





Pursuing and Finding Happiness

Celestino Fernández, School of Sociology 
The Declaration of Independence identifies happiness as an “unalienable” right for all people.  But how do we determine a society’s overall happiness and how do social groups experience happiness differently?  Dr. Fernández explores recent research which shows how social factors influence happiness.  Are we happier today than we were 50 or 100 years ago?  Does happiness change with age, education, income level, religiosity, or marital status?  Where do the happiest people live? The answers offer insight into our pursuit and finding of happiness as individuals as well as guideposts for fostering greater happiness for society as a whole. 


Compassion Training as a Path to Genuine Happiness

Charles Raison, Department of Psychiatry and Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences
Most of us seek happiness by approaching what we desire, avoiding what we dislike or fear…and ignoring all the rest.  Dr. Raison presents a radically different approach to enhancing well-being, one that embraces conflict and frustration as a means to produce internal changes linked to happiness. Derived from ancient Tibetan lojong Buddhist teachings, this approach has been secularized into a technique known as Cognitively-Based Compassion Training. Dr. Raison will introduce this technique and present evidence that compassion training has the potential to optimize emotional and physical health through a variety of interrelated effects, including improving emotional and biological stress responses, and enhancing the brain’s empathic responses to others in ways that might reduce depression.


How Our Surroundings Influence Happiness and Health

Esther Sternberg, Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine
Do the places and spaces around us affect our happiness and health? Dr. Sternberg will show how our physical environment, experienced through each of the senses, can affect emotions and trigger the brain’s stress or relaxation responses. These in turn explain how place and space around can either help healing or potentially harm health. Dr. Sternberg will review the many connections between the brain and the immune system, which underlie these effects. Dr. Sternberg’s research enables individuals to structure their environment and activities to best buffer the negative effects of stress, helps healthcare providers judge how and when to apply mind-body therapies, and assists healthcare and hospital designers in creating spaces that facilitate healing. These principles also apply to the effects of the larger world on health, including urban design, which are both good for the environment and help sustain health.

November 6 

The Evolutionary Links between Exercise and Happiness

David Raichlen, School of Anthropology
Why do some activities make us happy? Dr. Raichlen shares recent evidence which suggests our brains are wired to enjoy behaviors that helped our ancestors survive hunting and gathering lifestyles. For example, when we exercise, our bodies produce neurochemicals that improve our mood and make us happy. This is no accident. Evolution likely linked these neurobiological “rewards” with exercise to help motivate early humans to increase activity levels in search of food. This same process explains why so many behaviors make us happy, providing a window into how we can change our mood through our actions. Taking cues from our evolutionary history shows how our brains and bodies are powerfully interconnected and provides a novel mechanism to increase our happiness today.


Happiness – A Feeling or a Future?

Daniel C. Russell, Center for the Philosophy of Freedom
We all agree that happiness is something we want, even if there has never been much agreement about what makes us happy. But as Dr. Russell explains, there has also been an important shift in why we talk about happiness in the first place. When “happiness” comes up in discussion today, it’s usually because the discussion is about a feeling. In ancient Greek philosophy, however, “happiness” came up when the discussion was about a future—a practical discussion about what kind of life to give oneself and what kinds of things to live for. Since that discussion is as important today as it has ever been, Dr. Russell explores this ancient tradition in search of new directions for contemporary thought about the good lives we want for ourselves and for others.



Celestino Fernández   is a University Distinguished Outreach Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the School of Sociology.  He conducts research on various issues pertaining to culture, Mexican immigration, ethnic diversity, and education and annually teaches a very popular course on Happiness to over 500 students. Dr. Fernández has published approximately 50 articles and book chapters, composed over 50 corridos, serves on numerous community boards, and helped start San Miguel High School, a college-prep school for students from poor and working class families.
Charles Raison   joined the Department of Psychiatry at the UA College of Medicine with a joint appointment to the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences in 2011. Dr. Raison uses cutting edge approaches in the study of biological, psychological, and social processes to better understand how these domains interact to promote health and emotional well-being or the development of disease.  Dr. Raison has shared his research with the Dalai Lama and serves as a mental health expert for He is the Co-Director of the Institute for Cogntively-Based Compassion Training and was the 2011 Chair of the U.S. Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress.
Esther Sternberg   joined the UA in 2012 as Professor of Medicine and Research Director at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.  Dr. Sternberg’s discoveries of the role of the central nervous system and the brain's stress response in susceptibility to arthritis and other diseases, including depression, were amongst the first to provide a scientific basis for the importance of the mind-body connection in health and disease. Dr. Sternberg is recognized by the National Library of Medicine as one of 300 women physicians who changed the face of medicine.  Her books include Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being and The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions.
David Raichlen   is a broadly trained biological anthropologist who is interested in the origins and evolution of the human lineage. His research focuses on the evolution of human and nonhuman primate locomotion, evolutionary physiology, and the evolution of the human brain. With funding from the National Science Foundation, the Wenner Gren Foundation, and the Leakey Foundation, Dr. Raichlen has explored how and why exercise and physical activity improves health and how the mismatch between our current lifestyle and our evolutionary history impacts our well-being today.

Daniel Russell   is Professor of Philosophy in the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom at the University of Arizona, and the Percy Seymour Reader in Ancient History and Philosophy at Ormond College, University of Melbourne. His research focuses on ancient and contemporary thinking about good people and good lives. He is the author of Plato on Pleasure and the Good Life, Practical Intelligence and the Virtues, and Happiness for Humans, and the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Virtue Ethics. He is currently working on a new book, tentatively titled Justice: Cause and Effect.