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Dr. Garrett Potts earns grant to develop a ‘Life Worth Living’ hub at USF

The USF College of Arts and Sciences Department of Religious Studies has been selected to partner with the Yale Center for Faith & Culture as an institutional ‘hub’ for promoting the Life Worth Living (LWL) pedagogy and coursework to advance pluralistic undergraduate education and overall student flourishing.  

Dr. Garrett Potts

Dr. Garrett Potts, assistant professor in the USF CAS Department of Religious Studies. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Potts)

Dr. Garrett Potts, assistant professor, is the recipient of the three-year $237,620 grant, and will be responsible for LWL project development. He will be aided by members of his department, including Dr. Michael DeJonge, Dr. Tori Lockler, and Dr. Marianne Florian.  

“The mission of the LWL project entails an approach to fostering truth-seeking conversation about the ‘good life’ across enduring lines of religious and political difference,” Potts said.  

The concept of the ‘good life’ is something Potts says the LWL program will help students to determine themselves.  

“What we really see ourselves doing is engaging students in these holistic learning communities that give them sort of live options about various visions of the ‘good life.’ So, for example, the Buddha has his own vision of the good life; how we can overcome suffering and reach enlightenment. The Prophet Muhammad has his own vision of the good life as represented in the tradition of Islam which entails a surrender to Allah and Allah’s will. As we’re working through these various traditions, students recognize that there are a lot of different paradigms for understanding the good life. So, we're asking students to really consider what they believe to be the most coherent vision of the ‘good life’ and the implications that that vision may have for their own quest for a life worth living,” he said.  

Potts says that the religious studies department leverages a ‘Life Worth Living & the Professions’ angle to propel course development as a way of further integrating the LWL pedagogical approach.  

“Basically, it engages students in the pursuit of meaning directly within the undergraduate curriculum,” he said. “Many of our current courses challenge students to think about what is worth wanting and doing in their personal lives as well as in their professional lives to promote human flourishing and pursue the common good.”  

For example, he notes, students who take ‘World Religions for Healthcare Professionals’ study, think, and write about what is worth wanting for their future patients’ holistic well-being and what is worth demanding of healthcare institutions to ensure that healthcare practitioners can carry out their Hippocratic Oath with integrity.  

Religious text with mala beads marking a passage

Religious text with mala beads marking a passage (Photo source: Canva)

“Students learn to navigate conversations like these by drawing on their own religious and spiritual values while remaining mindful and curious about the enduring lines of difference that can be found among the views of their peers and patients,” he said.  

According to Potts, in the Fall 2022 semester alone, there were 900 students enrolled in courses that implement LWL themes. 

Potts said this grant will allow the department to create additional LWL coursework for aspiring young professionals to “deepen and expand what we have already begun offering to USF students and faculty.” 

Potts envisions three ways this grant will aid students in and beyond USF’s LWL network: Funding for a postdoc to help bridge the gap in instructional resources to meet the growing demand for coursework implementing the LWL themes; providing training and development funding to equip faculty members; funding a one-day workshop to partner with other organizations within and beyond USF to further develop the LWL pedagogy.  

“I'm looking forward to this grant providing the opportunity for students to be welcomed into life-giving holistic learning communities where they can pursue existential meaning together,” he said. “I'm also really excited about the possibilities it opens up for us as a department to expand our course offerings.” 

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CAS Chronicles is the monthly newsletter for the University of South Florida's College of Arts and Sciences, your source for the latest news, research, and events at CAS.