May 3, 2023

This semester, the Office of Religious is hosting a series of compassionate listening training sessions for Campus Life staff who expressed interest in expanding knowledge of how to meet the needs of students and colleagues with compassion, confidence, and expertise. Through the Compassionate Listening Corps, the Office of Religious Life seeks to validate, affirm, educate, and confirm the role of those who regularly offer support to students and staff as frontline “Compassionate Listeners” and advocates. At the core of this initiative are the Campus Life Strategic Plan objectives, in particular “strengthening belonging across student identities,” “enhancing campus life communications and collaboration,” and “strengthening campus life development, engagement, retention & operations.” 

Each session has been facilitated by Dr. Willard W. C. Ashley, a mental health professional and educator who specializes in creating healing spaces and modalities for families, individuals, and communities. Dr. Ashley has over 30 years of experience in community care and coaching. Following the tragic events of 9/11, Dr. Ashley designed and implemented the “Care for the Caregivers Interfaith Project,” a ministry of the Council of Churches of the City of New York. He is also a psychotherapist with his own practice, the senior pastor of the Abundant Joy Community Church in Jersey City, NJ and the Vice-Chair of the Bergen County Human Relations Commission. Dr. Ashley brings his extensive experience in antiracism training, psychology, ministry, and vocational coaching to each session, with the ultimate goals of: affirming the work of compassionate listeners, offering skill in compassionate communication, sensitizing participants on issues of diverse needs at a university, and building participant confidence as compassionate listeners.

There are 20 committed and enthusiastic Campus Life staff members who make up the Compassionate Listening Corps. Each month, this group gathers over lunch in Prospect House to learn from Dr. Ashley and each other about what it looks like to be a compassionate listener in their contexts. By reflecting on what it means to extend compassion to others, as well as to the self, the Compassionate Listening Corps is deepening its capacity for community building, a pillar of campus life work.