Christine B. WhelanTeaching Faculty; Director of Money, Relationships and Equality Initiative

Not for school but for life we learn. –Seneca

This quote from Seneca is my high school’s motto, and I use it in the first lecture for most of my classes. I’m a firm believer that academic research can and should be useful to all of us in our day-to-day lives. My favorite classes are ones chock full of fodder for cocktail party conversation: cool ideas and new perspectives; fun facts and counter-intuitive approaches; knowledge that will hopefully germinate into food for thought for years to come.

At UW–Madison, I teach classes on what it means to live “the good life,” especially through the lens of choices about money, relationships, and personal improvement. Learn more about my three classes—Consuming Happiness; EcoYou: Belonging, Purpose, and the Ecology of Human Happiness; and Finance and Families.

Stop by to chat about how my latest book, The Big Picture: A Guide to Finding Your Purpose in Life, may help you frame that important question of what’s next in college and beyond. Watch my TEDx talk, Authentic Purpose: A Roadmap, for a further amplification of that thinking. Or visit me online at to learn more.


Christine Whelan is a clinical professor in the Department of Consumer Science. She is the director of the Money, Relationships & Equality Initiative in the School of Human Ecology. In partnership with the Center for Financial Security, Whelan teaches and researches on topics of self-improvement, gender, relationships formation, and purpose throughout the life course. Prior to joining the School of Human Ecology, Dr. Whelan was a visiting assistant professor in the sociology departments at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Iowa.

Dr. Whelan earned her doctorate from the University of Oxford for her research on the quest for self-control and self-improvement in America since the 1950s. She continues to research behavioral change literature and programs, incorporating aspects of applied sociology into her teaching. As a nationally recognized expert in the field of self-improvement, Dr. Whelan has authored two books on best practices for emerging adults—Generation WTF (Templeton Press, 2011) and The Big Picture (Templeton Press, 2016)—delivered two TEDx talks on applied purpose, published op-eds in The Wall Street JournalThe Washington PostUSA TodayChronicle of Higher Education, and been quoted as an expert on self-improvement in ForbesSELFCity Journal, and many others.

Dr. Whelan also researches and writes on changing dating and marriage patterns in the United States. She has authored two books shattering myths of hypergamy—Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women (Simon & Schuster, 2006) and Marry Smart (Simon & Schuster, 2009)—and academic articles on mate preferences. On this topic, Dr. Whelan has been published in The Chronicle of Higher EducationThe Wall Street JournalForbes, and the New York Post, and she has been cited and reviewed in The New York TimesCosmopolitan, and The Washington Post, among others.

The MORE Initiative

MORE, the Money, Relationships & Equality initiative at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, provides research, teaching, and outreach to establish equality for women and men in relationships, family life, and financial decision making, while embracing central questions of self-worth, purpose, and meaning-seeking throughout the life course.

Recent press

Starting 2021 with a purposeChannel 3000 News, December 30, 2020
Will the COVID-19 pandemic result in a baby boom? Experts weigh inToday, April 24, 2020
Finding purpose during a pandemicPsych Congress, April 16, 2020
‘Know that you are not alone’: keeping mental health during safer-at-home coronavirus situationWTMJ Milwaukee, March 25, 2020
Can we buy happiness?WORT Radio, December 2, 2019
Buying happiness: Spend on time and experiences this seasonNBC 15 News, November 29, 2019

Classes Taught

  • Course number: INTERHE 201: Course title: EcoYou: Belonging, Purpose and the Ecology of Human Happiness
  • Course number: CNSR SCI 273: Course title: Finance and Families
  • Course number: INTER HE 201: Course title: EcoYou: Belonging, Purpose and the Ecology of Human Happiness


  • Consumer Science



  • MA, PhD, Economics and Social History, University of Oxford
  • BA (magna cum laude), Politics, Princeton University


Office: 4220 Nancy Nicholas Hall

Phone: 608-262-7794



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