Course Spotlight: The Science of Compassion

March 27, 2023

By J. Charlotte Jarrett ’08

Professor showcasing a powerpoint presentation
Photo by Scott Cook.

In this 300-level psychology course, students gain a vital understanding of compassion and how it drives human interaction.

Students in psychology professor Stacey Dunn’s The Science of Compassion course apply what they learn through meditation, journaling, and review of scientific literature to become more effective both at home with their families and as leaders in the workplace. Students leave the course well equipped with the skills to change not only their own lives, but everyone they meet, proving the point that compassion really is contagious.


Stacey Dunn, professor of psychology

Professor leading a classroom discussion
Photo by Scott Cook.

The Scoop

This seminar-style course explores the scientific perspective on how compassion develops and affects the brain, health, relationships, and society. Through a variety of in-class experiences, exercises and meditations, students learn methods to cultivate compassion within themselves and others. Covering everything from what defines compassion and how it is measured to the obstacles and fears that get in the way of true empathy, the class concludes with how compassion science can be applied to vital fields like education and health care.


Each session begins with a moment to get centered—students take a few deep breaths, release tension, and focus their attention in the present. Dunn checks in with each student and invites them to share from their compassion journals if they’re comfortable.

Class time is then largely spent in review of the reading, discussing key points either in small groups or as a whole. As comes naturally to the subject matter, the course fosters an open, supportive learning environment that facilitates sharing. Many weeks, students are assigned “compassion challenges” that are tied to the course content and deepen the learning experience.

The final portion of class sessions consists of a meditation, an essential part of compassion-cultivation training. With lowered lights, relaxing music, and a 10-minute guided reflection, students express compassion for themselves, loved ones, acquaintances, strangers, and all humankind.

Professor assisting a student with course work
Photo by Scott Cook.

Student Perspective

At Rollins, students have the unique advantage of taking niche courses in small class settings designed around discussion and collaboration, with the option of a hybrid environment. In The Science of Compassion, students have takeaways that forever change their success in group dynamics and leadership—whether preparing them to pursue graduate education in psychology and related fields or to succeed in thriving industries.

“This class has been so beneficial for me, and I’ve really been able to apply the concepts to my academic and professional life,” says Greta Rohrer ’23 ’25MPH, who plans to pursue occupational therapy. “The assignments allowed for introspection and have increased my ability to recognize compassion in myself and others. I’m now able to view compassion in a different way and see what an important role it can play in a healthy society.”

Did You Know?

Dunn is a licensed clinical psychologist who has a front-row seat to the challenges that make life difficult as well as the strategies that promote human flourishing. Based on course reviews, students are not only better understanding this psychological science, but they’re also applying the concepts successfully for a better life.

An admission counselor meets one on one with a prospective student.

Take a Closer Look

From virtual and on-campus information sessions to one-on-one meetings with an admission counselor, Rollins offers an array of ways to learn about our flexible and affordable Professional Advancement degree programs, seamless transfer experience, guaranteed admission policy, and more.

Get Started

Read More

March 18, 2024

The Meaning of a Good Life

After attending seven colleges across three decades, Eric Reichwein ’18 discovered Rollins’ Professional Advancement programs and the quality of life he’d always wanted.

March 14, 2024

How I Advanced My Career: Eric Reichwein ’18

Find out how Eric Reichwein ’18 leveraged the personalized learning environment and top-ranked reputation of Rollins’ Professional Advancement programs to finish his bachelor’s degree and build the life and career he’s always dreamed of.

December 20, 2023

7 Reasons to Make Finishing Your Degree a New Year’s Resolution

From increasing your earnings to advancing your career, here are seven of the many reasons why finishing your bachelor’s degree should be among your New Year’s resolutions in 2024.