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Leaning into compassion and kindness over the holiday season

Jared Gonzalez
Jamie Wilson, Dr. Maria Roca, Dr. Andrea Fortin, and Mike Kiniry

Finding ourselves at holiday gatherings with relatives or family friends who we disagree with about politics and other social issues is nothing new. But, in our hyper-partisan times the potential for tension is if not at an all-time high, it's certainly up there.

We explore some strategies for building constructive conversations at holiday parties with three members of Florida Gulf Coast University’s Roots of Compassion & Kindness (ROCK) Center. Launched in 2020, the Center’s instructors teach FGCU students about compassion, using the best insights from psychologists, philosophers, neuroscientists, and scholars from many disciplines — and promote compassion, kindness, and empathy through education, action, and research.

Those students then apply what they have learned by going into local K-12 classrooms to share what they know through interactive activities. The program’s goal is to foster positive academic and behavioral outcomes through strategies of empathy and engagement.


Dr. Maria Roca, Associate Professor in the Department of Integrated Studies at FGCU and Director of Roots of Compassion & Kindness (ROCK) Center

Jamie Wilson, Visiting Instructor in FGCU’s Department of Integrated Studies and a faculty member of the ROCK Center

Dr. Andrea Fortin, Visiting Assistant Professor in the College of Arts & Sciences in the Department of Integrated Studies and a ROCK Center faculty member