Empathy in Our World

Written by Joe Fisk

Photos by Lindsey Brand

On May 13, research arguments and photographic essays on empathy were displayed in the Café

Rotunda from students of Michelle Medeiros and Aaron Leff’s English 122 classes. The students used a variety of themes to define empathy: music, animals, community, addiction, death, reading, and more.

“Really, the goal of 122 is to get students to write researched arguments,” said Leff.  “This was another way we saw research and argument working together.”

Baudelio Juarez Gondea, a student of Leff’s, displayed a photographic essay with the theme of family. Gondea recognized the importance of a visual argument.

“This is a kind of new experience,” said Gondea. “It puts it in a new perspective and a new way to express your thoughts. I guess you can really see the way a person thinks and their personality in terms of how they take the picture and what they are trying to convey through those pictures.”

Medeiros and Leff intended for students to learn researched argument through more than language. Visuals provide an immediacy in messaging that language does not.

“When we process text or language, it’s multiple processing at once,” said Leff. “Visually, it’s just so much quicker how we take things in. We thought being able to take issues and display them visually was just as important. To take a message and be able to show someone.”

By using themes to define empathy, essays provide a platform for understanding argument and considering multiple perspectives.

“To understand the importance of visual argument,” said Leff. “That would be the academic goal. I would love for students to be able to see that issues are not black and white. There’s no easy dichotomies in life. Listening is one of the most important skills we have. To be able to hear others point of views without reacting, without having to feel like there is something personal at stake. It’s a very important to see multiple sides of an issue.”

For the second semester, Empathy in Our World has provided perspective, literary and visual argument. Leff hopes to do the event again in the future.

“I think we’ll continue this project,” said Leff. “As long as Student Life wants to fund us, we will continue to do it.”

 

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