Illinois State University’s Department of Psychology and the School of Communication will offer a virtual colloquium series, “The Extending Empathy Project: On the Way to Tulsa,” which is designed to increase understanding of social, racial, and economical adversity today.

This eight-part series features keynote speakers and presentations that examine the nature of empathy and the role it plays in efforts to create a more diverse and equitable culture. Speakers include scholars from various fields at Illinois State University, including Dr. J. Scott Jordan, Dr. Eric Wesselmann, and Dr. Dan Lannin from the Department of Psychology; Dr. Byron Craig from the School of Communication, and Dr. Diane Zosky from the College of Arts and Sciences. Other scholars from different universities will be presenting too, such as Dr. Leandra Parris from the College of William & Mary; Dr. Vanessa Hintz from Alverno College; Anna George from Oxford University; Dr. Theresa Rojas from Modesto Junior College, and Dr. Steve Rahko from Indiana University.  

One of the sessions, which will be on Tuesday, June 1, will be in correlation with the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. Illinois State University’s Dr. Byron Craig and Indiana University’s Dr. Steve Rahko will hold a talk called, “What Should Empathy Be in This Moment of Cultural Reckoning?” at 7 p.m. central time.  

“The goal of these conversations is to reshape the way people think of the word empathy,” said Craig, assistant professor in COM, who has helped in the planning and production of this project. The speakers will be discussing empathy from different viewpoints, such as trauma, domestic violence, racism, and other diversity, equity, and inclusion issues.  

ISU's Fell Hall, home to the School of Communication
Illinois State University’s Fell Hall, which is home to the School of Communication

Illinois State University highly values academic units working together to offer programs that can benefit the community. The Department of Psychology and the School of Communication curated this idea after completing several Twitter analyses about people’s expressions of experiences with trauma to get an idea of students’ knowledge on the subject matter.  

When asked why it is so important for people to understand empathy, especially in today’s climate, Craig said, “I am still on the fence about empathy because I question if we are in a place where empathy can be productive. Our goal is to get students thinking of what empathy can look like in the 21st century and ways we can begin moving forward to make changes. I think that’s what people can get out of the series. Empathy is a place to start change in a multitude of ways. I think beyond the pandemic we live an era of great racial divide. This project and those who are involved are concerned with accountability and acknowledgment that comes along with empathy.” 

The Extending Empathy Project’s schedule. NOTE: The links to Zoom and YouTube are off.

Along with the amazing speakers, each session will have a Q&A session. In addition, 25 participants, who attend all eight sessions and complete a survey, will receive a $150 gift card to Amazon. All the sessions are free to students, faculty, family, friends, and the public. Zoom and YouTube links will be available for each session. To find out more information on the sessions, visit or contact Illinois State University’s School of Psychology at (309) 438-5789.