The Compassionate University
How University of Virginia is Changing the Culture of Compassion at a Large, American Public University
Keywords:Compassion, contemplative university, culture change, resilience
Over the past decade, the University of Virginia has been experiencing a culture change towards becoming a more contemplative and compassionate institution. The leaders of this change seek, ultimately, to enhance and influence every aspect of the mission and community of this large, prestigious public institution. Of course, multi-layered and pervasive culture change does not occur instantaneously. Rather, the establishment in 2009 of the UVA School of Nursing’s Compassionate Care Initiative, followed by the launch in 2012 of the pan-university UVA Contemplative Sciences Center have led to an array of targeted initiatives that incorporate both the health system – consisting of the School of Nursing, School of Medicine, and the UVA Medical Center – and the university’s academic division, consisting of nine additional schools as well as the ancillary units that support the wider university.
This article provides a set of detailed examples of efforts implemented by these two centers in support of a culture change towards more compassionate teaching, research, patient care, and service. Examples will include:
- supporting compassion and self-care through retreats in the School of Nursing and research assessing the impact of this and additional co-curricular programming via cross-sectional survey of nurses
- discussion of student, faculty and clinical Ambassadors who serve as compassion mentors across the UVA Health System
- consideration of contemplative pedagogy within the UVA undergraduate course Mindfulness & Compassion: Towards Living Fully, Personally & Professionally
- discussion of pan-university co-curricular programming serving the university community that seeks to create impact at an institution-wide level.
The impact and outcomes of each example will be considered, individually and as part of a larger shift towards creating a compassionate, contemplative university for the modern era.
Bartels, J. B. (2014). The pause. Critical care nurse, 34(1), 74-75.
Barbezat, D.P. and Bush, M. (2013). Contemplative Practices in Higher Education: Powerful Methods to Transform Teaching and Learning, John Wiley & Sons. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/uva/detail.action?docID=1524285.
Bauer-Wu, S., Fontaine, D. (2015). Prioritizing Clinician Wellbeing: The University of Virginia’s Compassionate Care Initiative. Global Advances in Health and Medicine. 4(5):16-22.
Busch, J.D. (2014). A Pedagogical Heartbeat: The Integration of Critical and Contemplative Pedagogies for Transformative Education. Journal of Contemplative Inquiry. Vol. 1.
Ducar, D.M. and Cunningham, T. (In Press). Honoring Life After Death: Mapping the Spread of the Pause. American J. of Hospital Palliative Care.
Halifax, J. (2018). Standing at the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet. New York: Flatiron Books.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2011). Some reflections on the origins of MBSR, skillful means, and the trouble with maps. Contemporary Buddhism, 12(01), 281-306.
Kezar, A. & Lester, J. (2011). Enhancing campus capacity for leadership: An examination of
grassroots leaders. Stanford, CA: Stanford Press.
McClelland, L. E., & Vogus, T. J. (2014). Compassion practices and HCAHPS: does rewarding and supporting workplace compassion influence patient perceptions? Health services research, 49(5), 1670-1683.
Neff, K. D., Long, P., Knox, M., Davidson, O., Kuchar, A., Costigan, A., & Breines, J. (2018). The forest and the trees: Examining the association of self-compassion and its positive and negative components with psychological functioning. Self and Identity. http://self-compassion.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Neff.SI_.inpress.pdf
Newman, C. (2018). This class is helping first-year students start college off right. UVA Today, March 16, 2018. Retrieved from: https://news.virginia.edu/content/class-helping-first-year-students-start-college-right
Purpose, vision and the people of the Compassionate Care Initiative. (2013, January 15). Retrieved from https://cci.nursing.virginia.edu/about/
Roth, H. (2014). A pedagogy for the new field of contemplative studies. In, Contemplative Learning and Inquiry across Disciplines. Gunnlaugson, O., Sarath, E.W., Scott, C. and Bai, H., Eds. State U. of New York Press. pp 97-115.
Singer, T., & Klimecki, O. M. (2014). Empathy and compassion. Current Biology, 24(18), R875-R878.
Shapiro, S. L., Brown, K. W., & Biegel, G. M. (2007). Teaching self-care to caregivers: Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on the mental health of therapists in training. Training and education in professional psychology, 1(2), 105.
Tree of Contemplative Practices. Contemplative Mind in Society (C-MIND). Retrieved 2/21/18 from http://www.contemplativemind.org/practices/tree.
Weng, H. Y., Lapate, R. C., Stodola, D. E., Rogers, G. M., & Davidson, R. J. (2018). Visual attention to suffering after compassion training is associated with decreased amygdala responses. Frontiers in psychology, 9.
Wray, A. and Batada, A. Contemplative Pedagogy: Equipping Students for Everyday Social Activism. The Arrow: A Journal of Wakeful Society, Culture & Politics. 4(2). April 2017.
Zajonc, A. (2008). Meditation as contemplative inquiry: When knowing becomes love. Aurora, CO: Lindisfarne Press.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).
Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice has made best effort to ensure accuracy of the contents of this journal, however makes no claims to the authenticity and completeness of the articles published. Authors are responsible for ensuring copyright clearance for any images, tables etc which are supplied from an outside source.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.