The Compassion Project: A Community College Case Study on Cultivating Compassion and Understanding through Mindfulness
Community colleges are a valuable and important part of the United States higher educational landscape; however, completion rates are low, particularly for the low-income students who frequent these institutions. Many efforts to strengthen retention and persistence have focused on academic and financial support, and college administrators have become more knowledgeable about ameliorating some of the conditions that contribute to these challenges, but there is much yet to learn. Affiliation, trust, and security—qualities that can be increased through contemplative practices when enculturated in the learning community—may be particularly supportive to vulnerable learners, who typically have multiple stressors in their lives. These practices, when embraced, also have a way of creating bidirectional influence, which shapes the very institutional culture that supports them. This report explains the history, evolution, and recent outcomes of one New England community college’s endeavor to explore how contemplative practices might cultivate greater capacities for compassion and understanding amongst students, faculty, staff, and administrators. There is evidence that contemplative and meditative practices benefit learners by creating greater self-regulation and equanimity.
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