Sarah Lawrence College begins the year with empathy

September 9, 2016

For most students, the fall semester is getting into full swing. College students are decorating dorm rooms, testing the dining hall, and finding their favorite study spots. N4 joined a few of them on campus at Sarah Lawrence College to run a beginning-of-the-year story exchange. Led by our fantastic veteran facilitators, Warren Hardy and Shoshana Perry, we took thirty-six faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students through their very first exchange.

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Graduate student Robin Kronsinsky, who is pursuing her M.F.A. in Creative Writing, told us she came into the story exchange feeling the nerves of a new school year. But, she said, “the emotional honesty and genuine empathy I experienced with my story exchange group will empower and inspire me forever.” For Robin, the connection she felt with her partner was essential to her experience:

My partner’s honesty enabled me to share my story. I had come prepared to share something totally different, but then he told me a story from his past that he’s not proud of, one that taught him compassion and the value of treating other people with respect. In turn, I told him a story I had never shared with anyone before. We connected through our pasts; it turns out we were both bullied as children, and as a result, we bullied others. We both learned the same lesson from our guilt: we know the value of being kind, because we know what it’s like to be cruel. I felt lighter after sharing my story with him. I felt relief knowing that my story had been told, and that I’m not alone in the experience. And, most importantly, I felt hope in the power of the story exchange experience to create true empathy between all of us.

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After the exchange, SLC community leaders, Mara Gross (Director of Community Partnerships and Service-Learning) and Natalie Gross (Director of Diversity and Campus Engagement and Student Affairs), announced they’ll be hiring two students to spearhead the entire N4 “student arm” at Sarah Lawrence! What a great way to start off the new school year!

Tomorrow's leaders must learn empathy today.

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