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Jan 06, 2015 06:06 PM EST

UA to Launch Center That Focuses on Compassion to Improve Ethics, Health

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The University of Arizona has launched the nation's first formalized collegiate for compassion studies to produce interdisciplinary collaboration on issues that can enhance efforts to live ethical lives.

Through a generous gift from the Arizona Friends of Tibet, the University of Arizona College of Social and Behavioral Sciences will launch the Center for Compassion Studies -- the nation's first formalized collegiate center for compassion studies.  School officials said the center represents a breakthrough in higher education, "bring the university to the forefront of the dialogue on how the application of mindfulness and compassion can impact important aspects of daily life such as consumer behavior, health and school climate."

"Humans have innate capacities for mindfulness and compassion that can be enhanced through training," Dr. Charles Raison, the director of the center, said in a statement. "The center will explore multiple ways in which these capacities provide the basis for a system of ethical behavior that can provide much-needed 'common ground' in today's politically and socially fractured world."

The center will advocate for the expansion of compassion education; support research that examines the impact of cultivating compassion among individuals and groups; and join numerous other programs, departments and individuals advocating for and advancing holistic practices.

"Through the center, we are really excited to have a role, along with many other programs and centers on campus," said Leslie Langbert, executive director of the new center.

In addition to shepherding the strategic efforts of the center, Langbert is directly facilitating many of the center's offerings, including Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) classes, undergraduate courses, and partnerships on campus and in the community.

While many of the center's goals -- including partnering with the College of Medicine to analyze data concerning CBCT practice among breast cancer survivors -- are centered on research, it also intends to enhance the living experience of the University community.

The center's work also extends far beyond campus borders.

The center is dedicated to supporting the community through partnerships to expand the availability of CBCT for children and adults.

"Our goal is to be a resource for the Tucson and campus communities," Langbert said. "We are thrilled to have that role, and to be able to support contemplative pedagogy and effective management of stress to help contribute to a culture of compassion."

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