Compassionate University Initiative at Common Ground

Compassionate University Initiative

Educating the mind and heart of UCSC

Click here to view the Resolution in Support of the University of California, Santa Cruz Charter for Compassion currently ratified by the UCSC Student Union Assembly May 2014.

“The essence of compassion is a desire to alleviate the suffering of others and promote their well-being.” ~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Compassion is a universal value revealing our common humanity and interdependence. A sustainable future requires augmented compassion for ourselves, fellow humans, and the natural environment. The core of this initiative is to foster a holistic learning model which educates both the mind and heart of UCSC community in hopes of providing support for the full human experience which extends beyond academia. The university has a powerful responsibility and opportunity to impact the lives of young adults who hold our future in their hands. CUI is the thread that strives to weave together a well rounded university education through empathetic community building design.

Under the leadership of UCSC Senior Jenna Barron, Compassionate University Initiative (CUI) is a student-faculty driven program striving to awaken compassion in the UCSC community in alignment with the university’s mission of research, education, and public service. CUI embodies this vision in its programs of: guest lectures, student-led workshops, empowerment groups, courses, and campus wide service-learning events. Inspired by the Charter for Compassion proposed by Karen Armstrong’s Ted Prize Wish, CUI is working to affirm UCSC as an official Compassionate University  and carry out a 10-year plan of compassionate action.

Sponsoring Organization:

The Compassionate University Initiative is sponsored by the Common Ground Center at Kresge College. The mission of Common Ground is to create cultural change for social justice, environmental regeneration, and economic viability. Common Ground acts as a catalyst and facilitator of systemic change through undergraduate action-education, research advocacy, and civic-engagement. The Center is in support of CUI being that compassionate consciousness brings to the forefront what our needs are as a University community and sparks interest in action in working toward creating a culture of caring and dialogue.

Core Organizers:

Jenna Barron is a fourth-year Philosophy major with a passion for personal empowerment, civic-engagement, and compassionate consciousness. She is the Chancellor's Undergraduate Intern for Praxis Service-Learning Program at Colleges Nine and Ten, 2013-14. Jenna is on the Common Ground Center Administrative Board to promote education and awareness of the interconnection between social and environmental justice. She is a member of the working group for the Charter for Compassion, Santa Cruz and a representative of the education team for the Brain, Mind Consciousness Society.

Christine King M.A. is a UCSC lecturer and teaches courses in Transformative Action, Communication, and Justice. She is also a Mediator, Facilitator and Co-Founder of Nonviolent Communication Santa Cruz.

David Shaw is an educator, designer, researcher, and activist who teaches ecological horticulture at UCSC and is the faculty sponsor for the World Cafe and Kresge Garden Co-op.

Other students involved in this initiative are: Dominik Sonnenschein, Kim Harris, Pauline Velas, and Ada Ertel.

Other Collaborating Organizations:

Praxis Service-Learning at Colleges 9/10

Empath: Empowering Pathways

Charter for Compassion Santa Cruz

Needs Assessment:

Why do this? And how will this impact the UCSC community?

This pilot project has been initiated in order to increase retention and promote mental, physical, and ecological well-being. CUI has been empathetically designed to meet the needs of the student body by providing opportunities to explore and cultivate compassion at an intrapersonal, interpersonal, and global scale. Overall, CUI strives to create a culture of caring and dialogue at UCSC so people can feel a strong sense of safety and belonging in their community and gain the skills necessary to thrive in their college experience.


  • Bring to the forefront our innate positive human attributes of compassion, kindness, and altruism
  • Cultivate awareness of the interdependence between compassion and sustainability
  • Provide a safe space for the UCSC community to be heard
  • Personal development of self-compassion and it’s resultant well being
  • Serve the Santa Cruz community through volunteerism

2013-14 Plan:

  • Lecture Series (Three Speakers/Year)
  • Film Series (One Film/Quarter in conjunction with Thrive Circles)
  • Thrive Circles (Two circles/Month)
  • Listening Posts (In Conjunction with College 10s Rumi's Field Nonviolent Communication floor)
  • UCSC Day of Compassion (Winter Quarter in conjunction with Kresge Transformative Action class)
  • Compassion Cafe (in conjunction with Kresge's World Cafe,College 9/10s Activities office and Rumi's Field)
  • UCSC Day of Service (in conjunction with Homeless Service Connect)
  • Random Acts of Kindness Boxes (A project of Thrive Circles)
  • Compassionate Education Conference (in conjunction with Stanford Compassionate University Initiative and Esalen Integral Leadership Program)
  • Restorative Circles facilitated by UCSC students (in conjunction with Kresge College's Restorative Justice Initiative)


Current Activities:

Thrive Circles

1st and 3rd Fridays 4:30 - 7 pm at the Common Ground Center, Kresge Room 166

A cooperative effort to open up a safe and welcoming space for members of the UCSC community that cultivates healing relationships, growth beyond the classroom and empowerment for those who want to be heard. This vision isachieved through weekly circleswhere members drink tea, relax, and have the opportunity to share and discuss what is on their minds and have an empathetic group offer support. The word thrive means to flourish and the central theme of this group is to focus on how we can grow together through our shared life experiences.

Listening Posts

Stations on campus where students trained in Non-Violent Communication can actively listen and offer empathy to those who want and need to be heard. The hosts will play a GROK game with whoever decides to stop by. Hosts are there to lend an ear, offer reflection and guess what students might be needing or valuing in their particular situation.

Random Acts of Kindness Boxes

Boxes will be at the five dining halls and major lecture halls which contain slips of paper with random acts of kindness written on them. Students are invited to take one and act to spread kindness around campus and promote a milieu of well being.

Compassion Cafe (Quarterly)

Compassion Cafe is a discussion based on the World Cafe model which cultivates a space for deep and meaningful conversations which focus on coming together to explore an issue and generate a course of action to promote positive change at UCSC. The Compassion Cafe will serve as an opportunity to explore the meaning and impact of compassion and a place to collect ideas for further projects with CUI.

The 1st Compassion Café was held on February 25th, 2013, which brought together 60 students, faculty, and community members to discuss the power of compassion and the impact it can create within the UCSC and Santa Cruz community.

Lecture Series

Fall 2013

Bruce Lipton

Winter 2014

Emma Seppala (unconfirmed)

Spring 2014

Cecile Andrews (unconfirmed)

Film series

Fall 2013

Occupy Love

Free the Mind

The Human Experience

Proposed Future Events:

These events are aspirations for CUI during the 2013-2014 school year and have not been securely funded.

UCSC Day of Compassion (Winter Quarter)

A day dedicated to bringing compassion into the limelight on our campus. This is achieved by student volunteers writing and leaving letters around campus with inspirational messages, passing out cards with suggestions of random acts of kindness, tables with free coffee and tea, students offering free hugs, and listening posts around campus. This event would take place during week 10 right before finals to help students de-stress and feel connected and supported.

UCSC Day of Service (Spring Quarter)

This event would serve to bridge the gap between the UCSC and the local Santa Cruz community. There would be a projected 300 or more students who would spend a day volunteering and giving back to the community. This would be an opportunity to have many helping hands come together to make a large positive impact. The first service project is planned to be centered around providing support and resources for the homeless through the Homeless Service Connect resource fair in Spring.

Compassionate Education Conference (Spring 2014)

The vision for this conference is to explore how compassion can transform the university experience and cultivate sustainable leaders by bringing in world renowned speakers, facilitating dialogue, and hosting workshops. This will be a collaborative project with UCSC, Stanford, and Esalen Institute's Integral Leadership Program.