A group of Robins undergraduate and MBA students are mastering what just may be the missing link in business and professional communications: empathy.

Visiting lecturer Frederick Talbott launched a course called The Empathy Project. It’s a path to knowing and understanding others, which students can learn and embrace in life after graduation.

“I brought new eyes to a region and history I had long known, and saw the opportunity to connect to magnificent people who had lived here and their lessons,” Talbott said of his experience returning to the Richmond area for the chance to teach.

Then, he says, the photo of Omran Daqneesh, the young boy injured in a bomb blast in Aleppo, Syria, was published, and his idea came together.

 “We master active listening, interpersonal communication, professional speaking, and writing in class,” Talbott explained. “What was missing is perhaps the most vital of all. What was missing was empathy.”

Talbott says empathy is learning—not guessing—about the true feelings, thoughts, views, needs, and lives of others.

So Talbott designed a curriculum where students will learn to walk in the shoes of others, hoping to give them a new perspective on their education.

First, they researched the following:

  • Why Patrick Henry dared risk all sharing his amazing speech in St. John’s Church, only eight miles from UR, a speech that launched a new nation.
  • Why and how Maggie Walker, the daughter of a former slave, became the first woman in the U.S. to launch a successful bank only seven miles from UR.
  • What life influences prompted Edgar Allan Poe to write so much horror and humor, and launch the modern detective story genre, living much of his life seven miles from UR.
  • Why Pocahontas, only a teen, on three occasions saved the lives of English colonists in the Jamestown settlement 50 miles from UR.
  • Why Rodin, whose work is featured in the University Museum this fall, advanced sculpture to best reflect human nature.

Each week students also reflected on their daily lives, sharing how empathy was opening new paths to friendship, understanding, connection, and care.

“Empathy is a celebration of engagement, intelligence, focus, compassion, and objective awareness,” Talbott said. “Plus the courage to meet and do your best to understand others.”

Talbott is also featured in Richmond BizSense. You can read more about his curriculum here.