Life Architecture Short Term Course

Life Architecture (EXDS s21) is intended for students who feel relatively undecided about their next steps after college, including what to do and where to live. It’s perfectly fine to take this class if you already have your first job lined up (we hope you do!), but you’re best suited for Life Architecture if you feel “open to possibilities” beyond that first job.

This course is sponsored by Purposeful Work. We are thrilled to bring Professor Susan Mangan back to campus in 2024 to offer this dynamic course! (LinkedIn and Google Scholar)

“Building a life is about so much more than being able to pay your taxes and to budget properly, and to find a place to live. There has to be some deeper thread running underneath so you know why you’re doing all those things.”
-Rebecca Fraser-Thill, 2016&2018 Life Architecture Instructor (read the full Life Architecture Q&A here)

Helpful Resources for students and recent graduates, compiled by students in the Short Term 2018 session of Life Architecture

Course Description:

Everyone works, whether for pay or for pleasure, in public or in private, with gusto or with dread. This course supports students as they prepare for a lifetime of work by encouraging consideration of the philosophical components of their plan including identifying and developing personal attributes correlated with career well-being, exploring the context of vocational decision making, and contemplating how meaning and purpose can be infused into any work. They also consider the pragmatic components, discussing how mentors can be cultivated, how jobs are best secured, and the practical considerations that can hold people back from realizing their visions.

Counts toward:

  • Philosophy and Psychology GEC (C031)
  • The Psychology major, as a 200-level course in the Development and Personality area

Learning Goals for the course:

  • Develop insight into one’s own strengths, interests, values, identity status, skills and personal qualities including grit, resilience, mindset, and emotional intelligence
  • Understand the concepts of flourishing, happiness, and meaning and purpose in life, including knowing what they are, why they matter, and how best to attain these states
  • Prepare for the practical matters related to life after college, including searching for a job, cultivating mentors, budgeting, choosing benefits, finding and keeping housing, saving for retirement, and pursuing work-life balance
  • Appreciate the context surrounding vocational choices, including historical, socioeconomic and cultural factors

Class Elements:

  • Plant Yourself
    • A weekly interactive session led by Amy Jaffe of the Bates Center for Purposeful Work to explore your values, personality and skills, and then to work with peers to make sense of what you’ve identified.
  • What Really Matters?
    • Through exposure to readings and discussions, guest appearances by young alumni and designer Peter Bysshe, and podcasts and TED talks, we’ll explore the question of what creates a fulfilling and “successful” life.
  • Building a Network & Finding Jobs
    • With assistance from staff in the Bates Center for Purposeful Work, you’ll prepare for and attend the May Day job fair, shadow various roles around campus, and conduct informational interviews with people you know. You’ll also get dynamic hands-on experience in building a network from writer Caitie Whelan.
  • Practical Matters
    • Everything you need to know about life after college that nobody teaches you, presented by experts, including taxes, insurance, benefits, using credit wisely, and making and maintaining friendships.

Course Requirements (letter grades):

  • Journal entries
  • Questions for guest speakers
  • Attendance
  • Class participation & preparation using readings
  • Final Project:  Purposeful Work Blueprint


  • Contact Marianne Cowan at