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Press Release, September 29, 2020

University of Jyväskylä and Nyyti Ry’s collaborative “Compassion in Higher Education” project promotes and supports a compassionate operational culture in the higher education community. The project’s first stage of staff training was carried out in the spring in two parts, with student wellbeing advisors as participants.

The themes that stood out as most important included the building of compassionate work communities and individuals’ opportunities to promote compassionate interactions within their teams. Furthermore, participants highlighted the importance of self-compassion in workplace wellbeing and student counseling, where self-compassion exercises were also deemed to hold great potential.

Participants filled out a questionnaire that was used to discern whether compassion readiness and communal compassion were developed during the evaluation period. Results suggest that the most notable positive changes in compassion occurred among colleagues. The most noteworthy positive changes were found in the sharing of joy and gratitude, as well as in a strengthening of compassion and copassion (myötäinto) in the work community.

“A university community that’s full of ambitious people has a special need to create and cherish (self-)compassion and grace. And how much better would we all be doing if compassion was spreading among us?” ponders Tiina Suominen, who participated in the training and works as an education coordinator at JYU’s Department of Language and Communication Studies.

Another participant mentioned that the greatest lesson learned during training was an epiphany about how compassion and self-compassion are two sides of the same coin: “You have to be compassionate to yourself in order to show real compassion to others.”

“During the training, the spheres of compassion are examined all the way from individual readiness to communal characteristics and abilities. Organizational research uncovers methods that can be used to develop compassion into a community-level skill that helps everyone to be seen and encourages the whole community to thrive,” recaps Coach Laura Heimonen when asked about the key aspects of these training sessions.

“Individuals cannot possess these skills, unless the structures and culture within the university community enable and support daily compassion and copassion in the whole community,” explains Coach and Professor Anne Birgitta Pessi. Having taught many training seminars that focus on this theme, she is most impressed by how agile the participants were in applying the teachings and reflections of self-compassion and compassion to questions that examine the work community. Over the course of the project, they were already building a toolkit for implementing these approaches as part of daily JYU operations.

The Turning Compassion Into Wellbeing sessions were coached by Professor of Church and Social Studies Anne Birgitta Pessi from the University of Helsinki, Doctoral Researcher, M.A. Hanne Laasala from The Mindfulness Institute, Finland, and Project Manager, M.Th. Laura Heimonen from Nyyti Ry. More training sessions will be held this fall, with deputy directors in charge of education and education directors as the key demographic.

The collaborative press release has also been published on the JYU website: