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Imagination and Compassion in Higher Education


 Drew University, Madison, NJ

August  3-7, 2012


Imagination and compassion are necessary, even obligatory, tools to prepare the next generations to survive and to thrive in a time we may not know, understand, or live to see. Yet, in education today, imagination seems to be, at best, an extracurricular concern while compassion is only the haphazard consequence of the standard curriculum. At its 2012 annual meeting, the Society for Values in Higher Education will investigate the role of imagination and compassion in the ways we understand human realities in order to revitalize their role in higher education.


papers may address these values from a number of theoretical and (inter)disciplinary perspectives, including but not limited to questions such as:


  • How plastic is human nature? To what degree and in what ways is the human “blank slate” hard-wired? Recent work by primatologists like Frans de Waal argue that empathy is central to our biology. How might such science impact the ways in which we approach pedagogy and curriculum on college campuses?
  • How do we define or enact human connection and embody compassion in today’s world of quantifiable standards and rule-driven behavior?
  • What is compassion and/or imagination? Do they belong in Higher Education? What kind of pedagogies and/or curricula can help cultivate either or both? How can the different disciplines—from humanities to the sciences—approach these human capacities?
  • Amid calls for civility in public discourse and tragic consequences of bullying on college campuses, does higher education bear a responsibility for fostering the former and deterring the latter? What role should higher education play in our democracy?
  • To what extent, if any, is interdisciplinary learning a vehicle for responding to the present and/or envisioning and enacting a better future? How can interdisciplinary work—Disney’s “imagineering”?— foster imagination and compassion?


contact information


Direct inquiries and proposals to Eric Bain-Selbo, Department Head, Philosophy and Religion, Western Kentucky University ( Proposals should not exceed 1000 words.  Proposals will be reviewed as they are submitted. Review will continue until all available slots are filled. No proposals will be accepted after the deadline of May 11, 2012. Interdisciplinary and/or practice oriented proposals are especially encouraged.


 Each paper-presenting participant in a working group will receive a $200 registration fee waiver for the 2012 Fellows Meeting. Two papers will be selected for special recognition and awarded $300.00.  To be eligible for an award, completed papers must be submitted by June 1, 2012 and authors must attend the SVHE meeting to present their papers.

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