Empowering Empathetic Behavior Within College Students

L TO R: St. Johns students and members of SJU I See You Gina Mayes, Amanda Mejia, Isabella Knapp and Ashley Siragusa

TORCH PHOTO/ Sophie Gangi

L TO R: St. John’s students and members of “SJU I See You” Gina Mayes, Amanda Mejia, Isabella Knapp and Ashley Siragusa

To inspire the use of empathy in the daily lives of the St. John’s University community, student-led initiative “SJU I See You” conducted a “Day of Empathy” Thursday, December 2, in St. Augustine Hall. “SJU I See You” was created by students in the Collins College of Professional Studies (CCPS) Public Relations Senior Seminar Campaign class led by assistant professor of public relations and program coordinator Dr. Tiffany Mohr.

The class is participating in the nationwide Invent2Prevent program which encourages students at universities throughout the United States to develop action against targeted violence and terrorism. This year, “SJU I See You” created a card game to be played at their “Day of Empathy,” which propelled meaningful conversation and demonstrated the importance of empathy- the goal of their initiative. 

Isabella Knapp and Amanda Mejia, both senior public relations majors and a part of the social media and public relations team for “SJU I See You,” explained their high regard for empathy. “I’m becoming more down to earth and it’s making me more empathetic,” Mejia said. 

“…Once we decided to pick the topic of empathy it was something we all were really passionate about,” Knapp explained. 

TORCH PHOTO/ Sophie Gangi

At “Day of Empathy,” “SJU I See You” offered raffle self-care packages as well as a “Take what you need” board with messages such as “Peace” and “Life is good.” Students in the class taught visitors how to play the game and distributed packages of cards to take home. As stated in the directions, the goal of the card game is to “strengthen connections and increase empathy and understanding for individuals with different beliefs and backgrounds.” The game consists of three levels: “SEE,” “LISTEN” and “FEEL.” Players go around the circle picking cards and answering the questions out loud starting at level one. The levels progress in intimacy as players move forward. For example, a card from level one “SEE” asks, “Would you rather live in the ocean or on the moon?” While a card from level three “FEEL” asks, “What are you struggling with right now? Are you working on it?” 

SJU students Ian Adams, junior advertising major and Sal Cuffari, senior marketing student, agreed that the conversations evoked during the card game are rare to come up in everyday conversation. 

“The levels progressed quickly from surface level questions to really deep questions,” Adams said. “People are pretty uncomfortable having deep conversations.” 

Cuffari remarked on how “you really have to push yourself outside your comfort zone and your boundaries” when engaging in activities like this card game. 

Through experiencing such purposeful conversation, students were able to identify the importance of empathy in everyday life. 

Coinciding with the Invent2Prevent program’s mission to mitigate targeted violence in the U.S., inspiration for the initiative came from research explaining that people lacking empathy are more likely to commit acts of violence. Katie Flynn, a senior public relations student on the research team for “SJU I See You,” explains, “We saw that as a very important characteristic that we all have and we thought of ways that we could evoke that in college students.”

“I think empathy means being conscious of your biases before you speak,” said Mohr. She explained that the students made this card game in order to reflect on personal biases and experiences. “The more we can elevate empathy to combat biases and prejudice and rigid belief systems, the more we can embrace people and the less likely we will be to resort to violence.” she said. “You can’t hold empathy in your hands… but with this card game you almost can.” 

To view posts from “SJU I See You,” follow @sju.i.see.you on instagram.