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HON 201: The Science of Happy Intimate Relationships


The pandemic has affected thousands of lives across the globe, and the Fall 2020 semester was a semester where students and faculty were filled with curiosity and fear of what the future would unfold. Most notably, the past semester introduced new courses to students at UIC, and one of the brand-new courses was HON 201: The Science of Happy Intimate Relationships. This seminar course was instructed by Professor Kathryn Engel, a Senior Lecturer and Honors College Faculty Fellow at the University of Illinois at Chicago. While the past year was overwhelming due to the pandemic, Professor Engel said that “the pandemic has been good for relationships. People now value relationships more. People have learned to treasure and put those more precious to them first.”

Professor Engel has been actively engaged in the city of Chicago, advocating and delivering relationship programs. “The inspiration behind this is that people who have [access to thes programs] have fewer divorces, they have happier relationships… I just wanted students to have those tools in their hands.”

When science has played a prominent role in transforming our world, this course focuses on how scientific research outcomes can help in understanding the key to maintaining happy relationships. Professor Engel said, “The world is full of garbage information on relationships in social media, magazines. People don’t intend to do harm – they just have their own ideas. And the key to science is that there are a lot of things people can do to improve their relationships. Honors college students can avail themselves of the same knowledge.”

With weekly readings of articles from scientific journals, students in this course were challenged to select, review, and present on issues outside of their field. When asked about their experience in the course, the students responded positively. 

“This course was incredibly enlightening and useful for my career in working with couples and being in one myself. Not only did Dr. Engel present us with studies by the most renowned researchers, but encouraged us to do our own research into a wide variety of fields that made the class much more interactive. I highly recommend this course to anyone seeking to gain more knowledge in managing relationships and developing effective programs,” said Claire Holmes, one of the students who took the course this past Fall. Another student, Vyshnavi Nukasani said, “Professor Engel is very reasonable and actually cared about teaching our class properly. Our class enjoyed having her as a professor since she is very insightful in many areas. She taught us a lot of things that we wouldn’t have learned elsewhere and we’re all so grateful for that!”

Professor Engel solely gives credit to her students enrolled in this new course, saying, “My students are what made the course great. My students were surprised that there was all this science out there… things that you can learn and skills that you can acquire to prevent divorce and increase chances of having a happy and intimate relationship or a committed, successful marriage. And that’s just a phenomenal gift to have access to that.”