Office of Public Affairs

USM Center for Compassion to hold first public talk April 13

Brooke Dodson-Lavelle

A public talk highlighting the “Courage of Compassion” is set to take place at the University of Southern Maine this Friday, April 13.

Brooke Dodson-Lavelle, co-founder and president of the Courage of Care Coalition, will give the free lecture at 5:30 p.m. in the University Events Room on the 7th floor of the Glickman Family Library on the USM Portland Campus.

Lavelle holds a doctorate in Religious Studies from Emory University and a master’s in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism from Columbia University. Her academic work focuses on the diversity of contemplative models for cultivating compassion and mindfulness, as well as the cultural contexts that shape the transmission, reception and secularization of Buddhist contemplative practices in America.

The talk will serve as the first public event from the Bertha Crosley Ball Center for Compassion at the University of Southern Maine, a planned center whose role will be to educate and train the University and the community in how to deepen compassion.

New research in biology, neuroscience and economics has found that compassion – recognizing a problem and making a commitment to help solve that problem – not only improves other’s lives; it can transform our own. Compassion has shown to have profound effects on individual lives in business, healthcare, social justice, civic government and more.

Vaishali Mamgain, associate professor of Economics at USM, is the director of the proposed Center for Compassion. Currently, Mamgain instructs the course Economics and Happiness. She is additionally teaching a weekly Compassion Study and Practice class to 25 USM faculty and staff. This summer, she will be teaching "The Surprising Science and Transforming Practice of Compassion."

The Center for Compassion, together with community and corporate partners, will provide workshops to help people strengthen shared connections within the community and promote an awareness of issues such as poverty, racial and social injustice and oppression.

Mamgain recently told the Maine Community Foundation she has received positive feedback on her classes thus far.

“The students love it. They want to be able to connect with others in their research,” she told the foundation, adding that the soon-to-be-opened center will be a place where “we can have conversations, deepen our connections to each other, and speak to our own hearts.”

John MakranskyIn addition to Lavelle’s talk on Friday, the Center for Compassion at USM will also host John Makransky, associate professor of Buddhism and Comparative Theology at Boston College, on May 21 from 6:30-8 p.m in Room 102 of the Wishcamper Center on the Portland campus.

Makransky is also senior advisor and lecturer in Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche’s Centre for Buddhist Studies in Nepal, co-founder of the Foundation for Active Compassion and of the Courage of Care Coalition, co-developer of the Sustainable Compassion Training (SCT) model and author of the popular meditation manual, “Awakening through Love.”

More information about Lavelle and Makransky can be found on the Courage of Care Coalition website.