Facebook stalk Alex Wilson and you’ll probably walk away from your computer a happier person. About 12 of his 32 profile pictures feature his infectious smile, eight contain cartoon smiley faces and two have both. These statistics may be creepy, but they’re evidence of why Wilson is the ideal person to be the face of Northwestern’s Happiness Club.
Wilson, a McCormick senior from Bedford, NY, is president and co-founder of the club. It’s a lighthearted yet committed organization that recognizes the importance of what Wilson describes as the “simple things that you kind of overlook.” On this campus, where it’s easy to forget the impact of doing something as simple as smiling to brighten someone’s day, Wilson and the Happiness Club are on a sugar-induced, balloon-distributing, stranger-hugging mission to remind everyone of just that.
Although the club is a unique and distinctive part of Northwestern culture today, it only gained T-status through ASG in February 2010 and B-status in November 2010. Before that, the Happiness Club “just started out as a group of friends,” Wilson says. Ben Larrison, who was a senior when Wilson was a freshman, started the club and hosted its first event, Free Hugs and Hot Chocolate, during Winter Quarter 2008.
As a freshman searching for ways to become involved around campus, Wilson stumbled upon a Facebook event for the Happiness Club and immediately wanted to get involved. It was as simple as that. “I’ve always been […] a happy, positive person. Becoming involved in the [club], being happy became my mantra. As the Happiness Club grew, I got happier.”
The first event he participated in was Candy and Compliments in February of his freshman year. After Larrison’s graduation, Wilson became the leader of the club and helped the organization gain legitimacy over the next two years. He helped form a six-person exec board, which holds regular meetings to plan the alliteratively named, silly and sometimes childish events that distinguish the club. For the most part, the Happiness Club has been successful at doing just what its name suggests, especially during the dark and depressing months of Winter Quarter.
“Our goal is to just basically bring people together in different and unique […] fun, positive ways,” Wilson says. What better way to do that than by good old man-on-the-street recruiting to remind people there’s always something to smile about? Seasonal staples like Free Hugs and Hot Chocolate in the winter and kite flying in the spring have proven effective, while unusual activities like laughter yoga have been memorable moments in the club’s short history.
After leading the club for the past three years, Wilson knows it has lots of potential. “This club does fill a niche that it didn’t before,” he says, adding that with his upcoming graduation, setting the course for continued prosperity is of utmost importance.
One of Wilson’s goals as the club’s popularity increases is to get more students to come to meetings focused on planning the big events. “Our events have been simple and easy to run […] but we still need volunteers to help,” Wilson says. With the launch of a new website and Wilson’s hopes of spreading the Happiness Club’s mission to fellow perpetually stressed college campuses, he’s really proud to be a part of this exciting time for the organization. “President of the Northwestern University Happiness Club” would make anyone’s resume stand out, let alone an engineer’s, but for Wilson, it’s clearly far more than that.
“It’s the attitude of making the best of what you have and then also being thankful for everything you have,” Wilson says. We could all benefit from taking a page out of his brightly colored and smiley face-sprinkled book.