April 11, 2016

Margaret Atwood to speak at Congress 2016: Why compassion? Why now?

Renowned writer's participation in multidisciplinary discussion on May 29 part of Faculty of Nursing event
The symposium on compassion taking place during Congress 2016 is the brainchild of University of Calgary assistant professors Shane Sinclair, left, and Graham McCaffrey, who share a mutual research and practical interest in the topic and in sparking conversation and debate around some of the realities of compassion.

Symposium leads Shane Sinclair (BA, MDiv, PhD), left, and Graham McCaffrey (RN, PhD).

As part of the Congress 2016 exciting lineup of events, the University of Calgary will host six interdisciplinary symposia to exhibit the university’s most compelling and leading-edge thinking and research. This article is part of a six-part series showcasing each event, all of which are open to Congress attendees and the general public.

On Sunday, May 29, the Faculty of Nursing will host an interdisciplinary symposium called Compassion Under Contemporary Conditions: Keynote with Margaret Atwood; panels with scholars and community leaders. Why compassion and why now? Glad you asked! Symposium leads Graham McCaffrey (RN, PhD) and Shane Sinclair (BA, MDiv, PhD) answer your questions.

Q: So why compassion and why now?

A: McCaffrey: Compassion has become a subject of interest and concern in contemporary societies and within academia. It really is a universal phenomenon across diverse spiritual traditions, cultures and eras, and a challenge for our contemporary condition amidst market economies, globalization and technological progress. We thought the whole subject demanded fresh, multidisciplinary re-examination.

A: Sinclair: Our hope is that the day provides a forum for all of us to talk about how compassion is understood and practised in our individual worlds. One of the guiding assumptions would be that compassion manifests in the interrelationships of people and environments, so that to study compassion is to study people in specific social and institutional settings. One important question is, “What circumstances support or inhibit expressions of compassion?”

Q: Why Margaret Atwood?

A: McCaffrey: Margaret Atwood writes incisively about our society in the language of fiction. She has an intelligence, wit and imagination that bring out surprising new angles on familiar topics. She did this to great effect on the topic of debt a few years ago, and we are excited to hear what she has to say about compassion.

Q: How is the day structured?

A: McCaffrey: After the Atwood talk in the morning, we have planned for three panels in the afternoon. We start out with Compassion in Health CareShane and I will do a 10-minute TED-type talk and we have invited other leaders in health to have a conversation. After a break, we will have a second panel, Compassion in the Community, led by Justin Weinhardt from the Haskayne School of Business. Justin has pulled together some community members who incorporate compassion in their business lives. We close the day with Compassion in the Classroom, featuring Jackie Seidel from the Werklund School of Education and panelists who will talk about education and compassion. The end result will be real food for thought around this topic.

Q: Who would be interested in attending?

A: Sinclair: This day is really for everyone. There will be an option for people to just attend the Margaret Atwood lecture and that is great, but we know others will want to carry forward the discussion she begins and stay with us for the afternoon.

Q: What do you want the outcome to be?

A: McCaffrey: We see this as an opportunity to reflect on our experiences with compassion in different contexts, and expect that participants will go away with a keener appreciation of how compassion can come alive in the interaction of people with their environments.

For more information about Congress 2016 running May 28 to June 3, 2016 hosted by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences and the University of Calgary, please visit congress2016.ca.