Ds Scholarship

Challenging Students To Build Empathy And Community – Cardinal & Cream

Throughout the month of March, the School of Social Work is hosting a Random Acts of Kindness group challenge event to encourage students, faculty and others to develop empathy for the people around them.

The winning group will receive free admission to the School of Social Work’s Stomp Out Stigma 5k/1mile walk on April 30 as well as Chick-Fil-A coupons for everyone in the group.

The event was born out of the school’s Random Act of Kindness Day where they hand out free coffee around Feb. 17 every year. All that they ask in return is that students pay the coffee forward with an act of kindness. It can be as simple as smiling at a stranger or as grand as giving up a Saturday to serve in a soup kitchen.

The difference is that the Random Acts of Kindness month focuses on group service.

Groups can consist of no more than 20 people and must take a picture of their act. That picture will be posted in the social work suite, located in the Blasingame Academic Complex (BAC), to be voted on at the end of April. Groups have the entire month of March to complete their random act(s). The picture with the most votes wins the prize.

“It could be a group of faculty. It could be, you know, maybe helping professionals reaching out, a student organization, or just a group of people in one classroom. It could be two people,” Tammy Patton, associate professor of social work, said.

The School of Social Work wants to get groups from across different departments involved in this challenge with the hopes that these random acts might spread beyond campus and into the community.

Beth Wilson, Union University professor of social work, and her class chose to write encouraging notes on clothespins and secretly clip them to students’ backpacks as their act of kindness. Whatever the act, the school of social work hopes to help grow empathy by encouraging everyone to take a step out of their busy life and focus on those around them.

“One thing that can grow empathy is experiences and doing something for other people because you care—because you see that people are hurting,” Patton said. “If we can just talk about what hurts us and just be vulnerable with one another then, you know, I think that opens the door to healing. Just by being kind, you can help someone heal.”

All funds from the Stomp Out Stigma walk go to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The goal of the walk is to raise awareness about the need to stomp out stigma and shame related to mental health issues.

To register for the Random Acts of Kindness event, email tpatton@uu.edu.

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