Lecture challenges recovery of empathy
Published: Friday, September 21, 2007
Updated: Saturday, July 25, 2009 16:07
University of Northern Colorado students were challenged to step up to the front line while reaching out to their community on Thursday by a campus speaker.
Michael Kimball, the 2007-2008 Robert O. Shulze Chair, began his lecture with a short documentary that challenged students to begin asking themselves what community means to them and finding out what it means to other people. He spoke about recovering empathy in our communities and solving problems as a result.
He introduced the idea that all of us are responsible for helping out in our community. We should all be reacting to situations just as much as firefighters and policemen.
"We are all first responders," said Kimball. "We all need to be at the front lines getting things handled. We have to start search parties."
The search parties Kimball spoke of involve people getting out into their community and finding out what the problems are and learning how to empathize with people and their situations - how to really feel the sting not just sympathize with the fact that something happened.
Students at the presentation were very receptive to this idea.
Freshman Holly Wills, a marketing and Spanish major, attended the lecture as part of the Presidential Leadership Program and found Kimball's insight about universities being able to create empathy very agreeable.
"In high school we had to complete 60 hours of service learning to graduate," said Wills. "At first, I didn't see the point in students donating unwilling help, but a lot of students found ways to make it exciting and ended up enjoying it."
Kimball received good reviews from his audience and challenged students to learn to identify with people and what they are going through in order to make a difference where they live.
The lecture was part of the Shulze Chair Lecture Series that was founded in 1995 and is made possible not only by the Life of the Mind Program, but by the Shulze Endowment, which is named after Robert O. Shulze.
Shulze was the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a professor of sociology when he came to UNC in 1972. He initiated academic programs in women's studies, Africana studies, environmental studies and Life of the Mind program during his retirement.
Kimball has a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is one of three faculty members who received the Maine Campus Compact's Donald Harward Faculty Award for Service-Learning Excellence.
Mackenzie Wiggs, a junior English secondary education major, is a student in Kimball's Mind 292 course, Ideas in Conflict, and has come to find she really enjoys Dr. Kimball's approach to service learning.
"We start by researching problems in the community - problems that we are interested in," said Wiggs. "Then we move to understanding the real needs rather than just assuming our knowledge is correct."
In the Ideas and Conflict class, Wiggs and her classmates will partner with community organizations to try out their research and solutions in an effort to make Greeley a better place.
"Empathy grows community," Kimball said. "Empathy is recovered through service learning and civil engagement."
The turnout for Michael Kimball's lecture attracted several honors and Presidential Leadership Program students, along with university faculty.