Castle's new course first in the U.S. to use Human Library

Photo Credit: Kathy Castle
Tue, 04/16/2024 - 09:36

"The Empathy Project," a course being developed by Kathy Castle of the Department of Communication Studies, will be the first university course in the U.S. to integrate the Human Library's new online service.

The course is designed to cultivate empathy by enabling students to recognize it as an inherently relational process occurring when communicating and equipping them with evidence-based strategies.

"Empathy is on the decline, and we face a mental health crisis fueled by an epidemic of loneliness and dis-connection," Castle said. "We can no longer afford to take empathy and its cultivation for granted."

The Human Librarybased in Copenhagen, Denmark, is a nonprofit organization made up of "books," each of which is a volunteer representing a stigmatized group in the community. Each person uses their experiences to answer questions from the reader to help challenge what is understood about a topic.

The idea for the collaboration came after Castle connected with the founder of the Human Library, Ronni Abergel.

"After learning about the course to be introduced at [the University of Nebraska–Lincoln], it was clear that our new online learning space could be a great fit to help students," Abergel said.

The first course is being offered this fall, and 16 students have already registered. Each student will be required to participate by reading at least three pre-scheduled books. Students will also be asked to evaluate the experience.

Read more about the Human Library and the collaboration with UNL on the organization's website. The department is part of the College of Arts and Sciences.