The Gratitude Project, Episode 1

The Gratitude Project spreads good news

Developed and hosted by Tim Bono, the video series shares stories of inspiration and good cheer at WashU.

The Gratitude Project, a YouTube show produced at WashU during the spring semester of 2021, highlighted feel-good stories of how faculty, staff, and students supported each other and the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

And the stories did, in fact, make people feel good, said Tim Bono, host of the show, assistant dean for assessment in Student Affairs, and a lecturer in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences. “Overall, I had a number of people reach out to me with very nice things to say in response,” he said. “Even the Chancellor tweeted about it.”

The program, inspired by actor John Krasinski’s “Some Good News” web series, was developed to share inspirational stories of people doing important work in the university community. “We wanted to celebrate their contributions and share hope during a difficult time,” Bono said.

Bono, who teaches undergraduate courses related to positive psychology and well-being, believes that celebrating small kindnesses and sharing pieces of good news is vital to our mental health – especially during a pandemic. 

In one episode, the show highlighted the innovative ways the Performing Arts Department delivered theatrical and dance productions this year. Although professors and students were without access to physical theaters, they still showcased an impressive slate of dance and drama performances that included a mix of Zoom-only events, filmed productions, and even a mobile pageant wagon based on medieval outdoor spectacles.

Jeff Allen, the manager of the Harvey Media Center, produced the series and oversaw the technical elements. Each episode opened with a recording of undergraduate Ashley Zhu painting Brookings Hall and the Ginkgo trees on campus. Episodes often ended with music performed by students, alumni, or faculty.

In the last episode, Bono said, “I hope that one of the things this past year has taught us is that even amid really challenging times, there are still silver linings that are also worthy of our attention and of our gratitude.” Although the Gratitude Project ran only one semester, Bono hopes the spirit of gratitude and drawing attention to the good will continue.