Aristotle distinguished hedonia, the brief, fleeting happiness derived from immediate satisfaction of drives, from eudaimonia, the sustained happiness that comes from living a life rich in purpose and meaning. The UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative Eudaimonia Society was founded to recognize members of the UCLA community who exemplify Eudaimonia and inspire others to seek their own Eudaimonic well-being. Louis Tse, the recipient of the 2018 Eudaimonia Award, exemplifies Eudaimonia through his incredible personal efforts and dedication to others.
Louis grew up in Arizona where he first realized his fascination with engineering and service by volunteering at local museums. In the spring of 2016, Louis Tse earned his PhD in Mechanical Engineering at UCLA and now works at NASA’s Jet Prepulsion Laboratory (JPL). Currently, he’s working on building a spacecraft to study planets in our solar system, including earth.
His efforts at UCLA’s campus were no less ambitious. Louis’s student-run Bruin Shelter program best exemplifies his pursuit of Eudaimonia. The Bruin Shelter, which launched in Fall 2016, seeks to house college students experiencing homelessness in a safe and welcoming environment. It is the only shelter in the nation exclusively for individuals pursuing a degree in higher education and one sustained through collective, communal effort. As a student, Louis formed connections with other student organizations, such as Swipe Out Hunger, and the Fielding School of Public Health, who both shared his vision of creating a safe haven for students with no other options for housing. In order to fund the establishment of the Bruin Shelter, Louis Tse lived out of his car to save on rent money. As Executive Director of Bruin Shelter, he’s currently working to increase the capacity of the facility and acquire resources that will sustain the project’s growth. I had the opportunity to sit down with Louis and ask him how he strives for purpose.
Teddy Tollin (TT): How do you balance passion and taking care of yourself in your life?
Louis Tse (LT): My passion has become inextricably intertwined with my well-being. When students are concerned with their immediate safety, where they are going to live, or get their next meal, that begins to override the other kinds of well-being in their life, including academic performance. Their safety and success is the wellspring for my well-being.
TT: What does Eudaimonia mean to you in your life?
LT: It is a great modern tribute to caring for a whole person.
TT: What gives you purpose in life?
LT: I co-founded Students 4 Students, which is a shelter for college students in Los Angeles experiencing homelessness, and it is run entirely by UCLA students. In a larger sense, I find a tremendous feeling of purpose from providing a ballast in our community for people who need it most. It’s not simply the struggles of these students that have moved me; it is their durable optimism and unflagging determination.
TT: What advice would you give to someone looking for meaning and purpose in their lives?
LT: I recommend reframing the earnest idea that we have a stake in one another, as a contract with oneself to be renewed each day. If enough people act upon this thought, we can make meaningful progress in helping people live their lives with dignity and respect.
Louis will be honored as the recipient of this year’s Eudaimonia Award on April 24th, as part of TEDxUCLA Salon on altruism, hosted by the MindWell pod. Click here for more information about the event and for tickets.
Teddy Tollin is a third year Geography major and Geographical Information Systems minor at UCLA. Besides working at his position as the BEWell pod blogger, Teddy is a member of the Transfer Student video team, Co-Chair of the Built Environment Public Health Coalition, and is passionate about Urban Planning.