Predominantly sunny weather and diverse campus dining options are two of the reasons UC Davis students are generally satisfied with their quality of life.
The Daily Best, an online news website, ranked UC Davis at No. 26 on a list of the 100 Happiest Colleges.
The website used seven criteria to measure happiness, including campus housing, nightlife, graduate indebtedness, average freshman retention rate, campus dining, the number of student clubs and the number of sunny daylight hours.
According to The Daily Best’s rating system, UC Davis received an A for campus dining and Bs for housing and nightlife. The average graduate indebtedness rate is $15,155, while 90.2 percent of freshmen return for a sophomore year. Seventy-eight percent of days out of the year are sunny.
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) Associate Director Kristee Haggins, Ph.D., said happiness is a complex concept. Even though the study evaluated concrete and measurable factors, such as campus dining facilities and sunny weather, happiness also entails social support, self-esteem and spirituality.
Happiness is an individual experience. While Haggin’s idea of happiness is sleeping in, someone else’s could be waking up at 8 a.m. and exercising. The key to happiness is balance, and determining it for yourself, she said.
“The campus and city facilitates overall well-being by encouraging students to participate in activities,” Haggins said.
Several campus resources, including CAPS, help facilitate student’s happiness.
Haggins said the high proportion of sunny days allows students to bike, which signifies they are being more physically active – thus making them happier.
UCD has over 400 clubs and a plethora of intramural sports, which offer a social support network for people to connect with each other.
Haggins said Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is related to sunshine, UV light, vitamin D, seasons and how they change. SAD’s characteristic symptoms, similar to depression symptoms, include afternoon slumps, feelings of depression, lethargy, decreased energy and concentration. Treatment includes therapy, medication or light exposure. The Stress and Wellness Clinic provides a special light that mimics UV light during winter months.
According to The Daily Best’s study results, UCD students are particularly satisfied with campus dining options.
“Our goal is to provide restaurant quality food and service, and food that is as fresh as possible,” said general manager of resident dining Brenan Connolly.
UC Davis dining services strives to provide nutritious and well-balanced meals for students in a comfortable environment. Also, Student Housing, particularly resident advisers, encourage students to utilize dining time as a social outlet from their busy lives of academics and extracurricular activities.
“We work well and closely with the University and Student Housing to make sure we’re providing a quality program and everybody’s in sync,” said Connolly, who began working for the University Dining Services 30 years ago as a student manager.
The meal plan offers flexibility and value in the all-you-care to eat environment. However, some students do not make healthy choices. The nutrition department, including Linda Adams, R.D., works with the executive chef to create a healthy menu.
The dining commons are faced with the challenge of providing appealing food options every day. University Dining Services attempts to diversify food choices by offering events, such as themed meals, sundae bars, fresh fruit extravaganzas and taste changers, such as frosting your own cookies or cupcakes.
University Dining Services attempts to accommodate growing numbers of vegetarian and vegan students. About 30 years ago, 2 percent of students were vegetarian or vegan, whereas that figure grew to 13 or 14 percent today. Dining Services also provides soy free, gluten free and low-sodium options. Chefs now bake French fries instead of deep frying them.
Connolly said an increasing number of 2,000 students are purchasing off-campus meal plans. Faculty and staff can purchase meal plans as well.
Jason Tien, senior microbiology major and Bixby Hall RA, said most freshmen are satisfied with their quality of life at UCD.
“Most people seem to be able to find a warm and inviting community that share their views and perspectives as well as interesting classes that give them plenty to write home about,” Tien said in an e-mail interview.
RAs can refer residents to campus resources to promote their emotional well-being, stress management and academic success. Tien said residents learn lessons about how to balance their well-being with new responsibilities and independence during the first year.
“We try not to just hand them a business card and we certainly don’t just point to a map; Student Housing and RAs really try to take the extra step to do all they can for their residents, be it offering to walk them to a resource or checking up with them regularly,” Tien said.
THERESA MONGELLUZZO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. XXX