On Wednesday, March 8th, Dean and Vice Provost of Teaching and Learning, Michael Dennin revealed a side of himself UCI has never seen before. In this heartfelt series focused on fostering a closer, more intimate community at UCI, Dennin revealed the reason why he is always happy, even in times where others might deem it a little peculiar.
Michael Dennin began his talk with taking a selfie with a room full of Zot-ing UCI students, faculty, and staff. Always smiling, Dennin began to talk about the link between happiness and choices. While answering the question of “What Matters to Me and Why,” he made a connection between his happiness and family, people, and faith. These are the three pillars that hold the key to Dean Dennin’s happiness.
Dean Michael Dennin was born and raised Catholic but is also “a Ukrainian Jew”. Dennin jokes, “It does corner the market on guilt, so I’ve got that going.”
Step one of his love of people in connection to his faith is that he truly believes that creation is good, he says “There’s a fundamental goodness to the world around us.”
Step two is that he does not believe that we can always change what happens to us, but “we choose how we respond to the world.” He goes on to make an analogy between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, saying that we can choose which outlook we have on life, and he chooses Easter Sunday.
He ends this part of his monologue by noting, “I was hoping to say that without sounding too preachy.” Met by laughs from the audience, Dennin continues on with his explanation of the link between choice and happiness.
For this link, he gives credit to his eldest child, Kimberly. He says, “About 3-4 years ago, as I was moving into a stressful part of my life… she said ‘Dad, stress is a choice. Don’t choose it’” Later, when she worked as a program manager at UCI for the summer, she qualified this with, “‘Dad, stress is sometimes really hard not to choose.’” These moments are what Dennin considers growing moments for both him and his daughter.
Dean Dennin then mentions his family life as a child, and the connection between that and the way he views the world now.
Dennin’s youngest brother has down-syndrome. When his brother was born, his parents experienced negative emotions in response to this diagnosis, but very quickly they realized they could make the choice to accept it and “make it the best, which is better than making the best out of it.”
His parents insisted on making choices that allowed his brother to live his best life. In their hometown in Maine, there were very few options available for participating in the Special Olympics, but when the time came around, they made sure that his brother played the sports that were offered (golf and weightlifting). His parents decided that they wouldn’t let depression make choices for them. Instead, the did what they could to make their family’s life the best it could possibly be.