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Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Registration and Refreshments

Kirby Ballroom


Opening Plenary

Welcome from Dr. Lisa A. Erwin, Vice Chancellor for Student Life

The Power of Empathy

Dr. Anita Nowak
Integrating Director of the Social Economy Initiative, McGill University

Empathy, Entrepreneurship, and the Liberal Arts

Dr. Olaf Kuhlke
Associate Dean, UMD College of Liberal Arts

Duluth Poet Laureate

Deborah Gordon Cooper

Kirby Ballroom


Session One


Imagining Empathy or its Absence

David Gore, UMD Department of Communication
Eve Browning, UMD Department of Philosophy
One source for moral action is the human imagination, especially the way we imagine others. Although we can never know for certain the contours of another's interior mind and existance, our imagination can aid us in getting close to an understanding of their suffering and success. This presentation draws on David Hume and Adam Smith to develop some ideas for sharpening the power of our imagination to encounter others.
Empathy is a complex concept. Is it possible? Is it desirable? Is it a good thing for us to assume we understand what others are experiencing? What if we are just arrogantly appropriating someone else's mental life and colonizing it when we claim to be empathetic? Isn't a claim to empathy an arrogant and imperial kind of claim? This session will also appeal to the work of Edith Stein. Stein was a German philosopher whose doctoral dissertation,The Problem with Empathy, was brilliant; she died in Auschwitz in 1942.

Neuroscience, Evolution and Empathy

Dan Glisczinski, UMD Department of Education
Noel Reynolds, UMD College of Education and Human Service Professions
Why do some dissonance-inducing experiences promote empathic cognition while others merely incite fear and ideological entrenchment? Education neuroscience research suggests transformative learning experiences travel the brain's high road--fueled by emotionally competent stimuli that engage the rational prefrontal cortext where critical reflection on assumption takes place.

Empathy is more than relating to the feelings of another. The major difference from a behavioral neuroscience viewpoint is one of context. From this perspective we can identify the functionality of recognizing the emotional state of others, and the benefits of displaying the appropriate emotion (or lack of, whichever may be the case). As complex animals, we are able to control a great deal of our ability to perform this feat. However, there are neurological sturctures in the brain which have the ability to perform this task on their own or in conjunction with conscious efforts. In this examination of empathy, we will examine brain stuructures which play important roles in empathy, how they are engaged, psycho-pathologies related to not engaging them, and why our lives may depend on empathy to survive.

Non-Violent Communication Track Workshop One
Seven Key Skills: A Map of Empathic Connection

Ann Harrington
We've all experienced breakdowns in communication and the escalating stress of difficult interactions that drain energy, damage relationships and even destroy careers. Conflict is a normal and healthy fact of life. So how do we use it to connect us, versus allowing it to use us, leaving us disconnected with negativity and mistrust? Seven key skills can assist us in navigating this territory.


Session Two


Empathy and Healing Through Art

Susan Meyers, North Central Windows Project
Michelle Hargrave, UMD Office of Civic Engagement
Creating art in a supportive environment offers a safe, personal, and non-threatening opportunity for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors to take time to relax and focus on themselves in the midst of crisis. The art the survivors make evolves into significant evidence of progress along their healing journey, reminding these survivors that they are capable of creating beauty and expressing emotions previously considered out of reach. These powerful images of strength, belief, and endurance educate our community and empower survivors on their way to healing.

Putting Empathy to Work:
Advocate for What Matters to You

Steve Wick and members of MPIRG
Melanie Goldish, UMD Department of Communication
At the heart of all advocacy work is empathy. This workshop will help participants plan and create the basis for an advocacy campaign on an issue that matters to them. The presentation will include group discussion and feedback elements so that each participant can walk away with an action plan.

Discover the inside story behind a powerful journey of empathy transformed into global action. Melanie Goldish, founder of SuperSibs!, will share the inspirational triumph of family heartbreak channeled into breakthrough standards of health care. Gain insight on how one person can begin with empathy, and indeed, change the world.

Non-Violent Communication Track Workshop Two
The Reverse Golden Rule: Why Bother with Self-Empathy?

Ann Harrington
What exactly is self-empathy? And why is it such a crucial skill in being an empathic communicator? When people first hear about self-empathy, they often confuse it with self-pity, feeling sorry for yourself, or being selfish. Learn how empathy and self-empathy are two sides of the same coin, and how to apply four steps of self-empathy to any situation.


Plenary Session


Dr. Olaf Kuhlke
Associate Dean, UMD College of Liberal Arts

Keynote Address
Empathic Action Rocks:
Join the Movement that Can Change Your Life and Change the World

Dr. Anita Nowak
Integrating Director of the Social Economy Initiative, McGill University

Attendees are welcome to bring a lunch to Dr. Kuhlke and Dr. Nowak's presentations.
Kirby Ballroom


Session Three


Compassionate Critique
Responding to Student Writing from the Heart

Steven Backus, College of St. Scholastica
Susan Perala-Dewey, UMD Department of Writing Studies
Presenters will introduce techniques from Non-Violent Communication practice to lead participants to develop authentic and compassionate responses to student writing.

Poetry and Empathy

Gary Boelhower, College of St Scholastica
Presenters will discuss research in both emotional and spiritual intelligence; share their poetry; and include some practices to help us develop the skill of empathy.

Non-Violent Communication Track Workshop Three
Cracking the Code of Difficult Conversations

Ann Harrington
Consider this fresh perspective and learn skills for holding your center while empathically sorting through unsettling, awkward communications that can yield insight, understanding, relief and the ability to lead with empathy.


Session Four


Empathy, Race and Character

Sean Walsh and Jeanine Weekes Schoer, UMD Department of Philosophy
This panel examines the practical importance of empathy. The central role of empathy for character and possibly morality more broadly will be explored, as well as empathy's role in responding to and resolving racism.

Bringing Contemplative Education Practices to Higher Education

Amy Renne and Meg Little, University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy
Learn about new models of contemplative education focused on mindfulness practices, brain development research and self-compassion.

Non-Violent Communication Track Workshop Four
Compassionate Honesty: Being Real vs. Being Nice

Ann Harrington
If we value empathy and kindness, how do we learn to honestly speak our minds without triggering defensiveness? By learning to recognize "disease to please" and peace at any price habits, we can unchoose and replace them with an simple, authentic, yet assertive style of self expression that others can more easily hear. This empathy-based four-part skill is simple...but not easy.

Flexing Your Empathy Muscles

Dr. Anita Nowak
Integrating Director of the Social Economy Initiative, McGill University
Breakthroughs in neuroscience are showing that humans are empathic by nature--and that we are capable of becoming more empathic with practice. This has major implications for self and society. Together, we will explore ways to deepen our capacity for empathy and empathic action through experiential learning exercises.


Session Five


Obstacles to Empathy

John Schwetman, UMD Department of English
Shelley Smith, UMD Instructional Development Services
In our literary tradition, they appear as monsters, but perhaps they are people in need of empathy. John Schwetman asks, "How does monstrosity become an obstacle to empathy, and how can literature remove this obstacle?" Kazuo Ishiguro's novel Never Let Me Go offers us a story of empathy impeded from the monsters' point of view.
In the second half of this workshop, Shelley Smith discusses how to make connections in difficult situations. What do you do when your values are violated? She focuses on understanding cultural values and behaviors that violate our own values. How do we seek understanding with others when we cannot personally accept their beliefs or actions?

Empathy in Ethics: Pros and Cons

Jennifer Mencl, UMD Management Studies
Shane Courtland, UMD Department of Philosophy
Presenters take two different stances when it comes to applying principles of empathy to ethical decision-making. Mencl will provide a brief summary of her research specific to empathy and managerial decision-making within the context of employee-related ethical decisions. Implications of the research for the workplace will be discussed.

Courtland will take an opposing stance, contending that though there seems to be a prima facie connection between ethics and empathy, such a connection is perhaps illusory--or at the very least, overplayed. He will discuss reasons why an exaggerated emphasis on empathy might undermine legitimate moral goals.

Non-Violent Communication Track Workshop Five
Compassionate Listening: Being Genuinely Present

Ann Harrington
There is an old saying that before judging another person, you need to walk a mile in their shoes. One way we can do this is by learning to really listen and be present with a person when they are expressing their feelings and values. It is common to slip off the path of true empathy and begin offering empathy imposters instead. Heartfelt empathy is a precious and transformative gift.


Closing Ceremonies

Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial Drama
Sara Thomsen with Echoes of Peace Choir

Kirby Ballroom

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