A lesson in empathy with Paul Parkin

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Photo courtesy of Paul Parkin

Paul Parkin is an adjunct professor at UVU who uses his understanding and research of empathy to reinforce his teaching style and the way he approaches life.

Parkin, like many, approached college with the mindset of becoming rich. It wasn’t until he experienced the death of both his father and brother, on top of the ending of a close relationship, that he realized the direction his life was headed was not one he wanted.

Changing my focus between my master’s and Ph.D was easy in the sense that I just knew I had found my calling (professionally). It just felt right. However, the transition was bumpy at times as I had to restructure my classes and research to align with my new focus,” Parkin said.

His new focus was the transformative powers of empathy and how to utilize empathy to bring about connection.

For some people, following their passion in life doesn’t equate to being financially secure. Parkin believes a balance is needed to ensure students are protecting themselves as best as they can financially while also stoking the fires of passion within.

“I have four bits of advice when it comes to this topic,” Parkin said. “First, talk to as many people as you can that have careers in the chosen field you are pursuing.”

He also recommends that students pick a minor to fall back on, diversify their education and build a tribe of supportive people around them.

According to Parkin, a minor might be the career pathway that students end up in, while a diverse education adds to students’ resumes and gives them additional options.

Students should choose a tribe “with as much energy as passion” as they put towards their education and career, he said.

Teaching at UVU has enabled Parkin to further his research on empathy by having students participate in informative journal writings and by listening to the stories and perspectives of his students.

We need to be around people that are not like us, and we need to invest and validate their lived experiences; it grows us and enlarges our world,” Parkin said.

Parkin currently teaches two different classes for the communication department: Interpersonal Communication and Small Group Communication. Both of these classes make up 15 out of 23 reviews he has online. His approach is what he calls a “holistic-style” of teaching.

“One of the great things about the subjects that I teach are that they cast a net wide enough that they reach everyone (whether they’re religious or not),” Parkin said.”

With this approach, the well-liked instructor has achieved a 4.9 out of 5 overall quality rating on Rate my Professor, and a 100-percent-would-take-again rating from over 20 students.

Past students of Parkin’s, regardless of the grade they received, raved about the applicability to real life relationships his courses and lectures provided.

Students used words such as “inspirational,” “respected,” “caring” and “hilarious” used to describe him.