The mission for my Capstone project was to develop and implement an empathy workshop for college students. The goals of the workshop were to present a conceptual framework of the vital importance of empathy for self, relationships, community, and society and to develop skills and competencies integral to empathic behavior. These objectives were met through experiential learning, including meditation, self and group reflection, role-playing, and modeling through practice.
Prior to enrolling at CLU, I would have approached these objectives much differently by designing a workshop based on research alone. However, the Master’s of Social Impact program taught me to take a grassroots approach to development. This systems and design thinking strategy resulted in a made-to-order workshop, shaped and molded through a cooperative collaboration amongst my participants, stakeholders and myself.
We co-created the workshop utilizing the principles I learned in the Capstone Core. The Mindfulness training taught me patience and understanding. In the Dialogue course, I learned deep listening and respectful response. The Collaboration course enlightened me to the power of co-intelligence. These learned competencies delivered a workshop that felt custom-made to the needs of my participants.
My participants and I bonded over the course of creating and experiencing the workshop. At the end of the workshop, we participated in several volunteer activities as a group and we developed a special “empath” greeting to use in the future when we bumped into each other. The greeting is our unspoken way of letting the other know we are still here for them. To greet one of my fellow “empaths” — I tap my heart, then I tap my back, then I point the peace sign toward his or her eyes. We understand this to mean, “I care about you – I’ve got your back – I wish you peace.”
Last week, I was in a parking lot when I heard my name being called. I turned to see a big lumberjack of a man I did not know tap his heart, tap his back, and point the peace sign towards my eyes. I returned the gestures and without exchanging words, we both got into our cars. This warm, unexpected encounter with a stranger indicated to me that my participants have become leaders and are creating a buzz about the virtues of one of our greatest human virtues — empathy. Capstone mission accomplished.
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