The Santa Monica College Public Policy Institute will present its first annual Spring Symposium, “Education and the Pursuit of Happiness,” Tuesday through Thursday, May 15 through 17.

The symposium will feature speakers, panel discussions and a film screening covering a broad range of topics that explore whether there is any real relationship between education and happiness in life.

SMC’s Public Policy Institute provides nonpartisan community programs exploring key economic, social and political issues. Led by its founding director, former state Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) and its associate director, political science professor Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, the institute offers free informative discussions on policy issues that affect daily lives.

“We chose the theme of the symposium to encourage lively debate and discussion on whether learning can be seen as related to happiness,” Kuehl said. The topic also reflects SMC’s 2011-12 global citizenship theme, “Health, Wellness & the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Tahvildaran-Jesswein holds the chair of excellence in philosophy and social science.

The lineup for the week is as follows:

  • Tuesday, May 15 at 11:15 a.m.: “Implementing the California Dream Act.” A panel discussion – led by Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles – includes students sharing their personal experiences. Humanities & Social Science Lecture Hall 165, SMC main campus, 1900 Pico Blvd.
  • Tuesday, May 15 at 6:30 p.m.: “What is Happiness? A Roundtable Kickoff.” A discussion with SMC professors and other educational leaders on the nature of happiness. Humanities & Social Science Lecture Hall 165, SMC main campus, 1900 Pico Blvd.
  • Wednesday, May 16 at 7 p.m.: “Film Night: Walkout.” A screening of the film Walkout, followed by a discussion. Walkout is a 2006 HBO film, directed by actor-director Edward James Olmos, based on a true story of the 1968 East Los Angeles student walkouts to protest practices in public schools. Laemmle Monica 4-Plex, 1332 Second St., Santa Monica.
  • Thursday, May 17 at 11:15 a.m.: “Learning Outside the Lines: Finding Happiness through an Inclusive Education Movement.” Author/activist Jonathan Mooney, who has dyslexia, wrote “The Short Bus” and is a Harry S. Truman Scholar as well as a leader in the field of disabilities and alternative education. Humanities & Social Science Lecture Hall 165, SMC main campus, 1900 Pico Blvd.
  • Thursday, May 17 at 7 p.m.: Community Program: “Looking for Happiness in the Constitution?” Constitutional law professor Erwin Chemerinsky, the founding dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, joins UCLA law professor and vice provost Christine Littleton and UCLA law professor and civil rights expert Cheryl Harris in a discussion on just how far law can go to protect the happiness of Americans. Program moderated by Kuehl. Room 123 of the SMC Bundy campus, 3171 S. Bundy Drive, Los Angeles.

    All the symposium events are free.

    Seating is limited and is strictly on a first-arrival basis for all events except the May 17 evening program, for which reservations are required. Information, (310) 434-3429.

    For reservations for the May 17 evening program, (310) 434-3429.