2014 Octagon Conference

2014: Integrity and Citizenship

Seed Documents:

Click to download.

As we planned the Octagon Conference 2014 President Riekeman asked us to address the Life University Core Proficiency related to Integrity and Citizenship. Fully appreciating the importance and scope of this consideration the President graciously provided us with a five-year timeframe to focus on this important area. In light of the work already underway on campus addressing areas such as secular ethic and compassion it was agreed that these should be central elements of our considerations over the next five year period.In January 2014 the organizers agreed to proceed with goals in the following areas:

  1. An overview of the areas of compassion, forgiveness, peace studies and secular ethics in  terms of:
    1. Who was active in these areas
    2. Key efforts known to the participants
    3. Areas of unique need to be addressed among these fields
  2. Development of a gap analysis in the areas of interest
  3. Development of an agreed upon lexicon related to the areas of involvement
  4. Identification of design principles for a Center such has been proposed by Life University
  5. Titling/naming of the Center in question
  6. How and where the work product of this effort is to be applied

The Octagon Conference 2014 was held on Thursday, April 24 and Friday April 25 with an informal welcoming reception on Wednesday, April 23, 2014.

The conferees for the 2014 Conference included:

  • Lara Denis, Department Chair, Psychology, Agnes Scott College
  • Joe DiSpenza, Chiropractor, neuroscientist, private practice
  • Marietta Fahey, Senior Administrator, Sisters of the Holy Family
  • Tom Flores, Faculty member, Georgia Gwinnett College
  • Won Jae Hur, Ph.D. Candidate, Boston College
  • Michael Karlin, Ph.D. Candidate, Emory University
  • Corey Keyes, Department of Sociology, Emory Univeristy
  • Fred Luskin, Chair, Forgiveness Projects, Stanford University
  • Brendan Ozawa de Silva, Psychology Department, Life University
  • Chikako Ozawa-de Silva, Department of Anthropology, Emory University
  • Bobbi Patterson, Department of Religion, Emory University
  • Alan Pope, Department of Psychology, West Georgia College
  • Peggy Samples, Chair, Psychology Department, Life University
  • Rob Scott, Senior Vice President, Academic Affairs, Life University
  • Richard Shook, Psychology Department, Life University
  • Geshe Lobsang Tenzin, Department of Religion, Emory University
  • Michael Winskell. Director, Global Dialogues Trust
  • Gerard W. Clum, Director, The Octagon, Life University
  • Stephen Bolles, Consultant to The Octagon, Life University

The schedule for the conference is attached for review. The schedule as envisioned was followed closely but not slavishly. The morning break-outs session on Thursday were omitted as the conversation was flowing freely and productively and it was agreed by consensus that it should continue.

The Thursday afternoon session was marked by two generative presentations. The first was offered by Corey L. Keyes, Ph.D. Winship Professor of Sociology, Emory University. The second was offered by Geshe Lobsang Tenzin and was entitled: “Theory & Practice of Cognitively-Based Compassion Training”. Both of these presentations sought to bring the current science related to integrity, well-being, flourishing and contemplative practices to the conference.

The first day ended with an evening assignment for the participants to consider the opportunities to enhance the development of the perspectives of positive psychology and compassion development—what are the needs, who are the players, how can we find a niche and fill it?

The Friday morning session began with a recap of the discussions of Thursday developed and offered by Dr. Clum. The discussion included the following:

  1. Integrity

-As an individual, as an internal process
-As a broader perspective of community and as an internal and external process
-In broad terms integrity is more about the individual and citizenship is the expression of integrity into the community
-As character

Integrity and alignment with actions
-Do actions reflect deepest convictions?
-Do actions express personal commitment?


2. Constellation of virtues

-Consideration (?)

3.Social integrity
-Proper regard for others
Congruence, commitment, collaboration, consistency

4.Many models of integrity

-Integrity from an individual perspective or having a social dimension
-Is/can individual integrity be at odds with citizenship?
-Do we need to make a choice about models of integrity—individual, social?

5.Re: Definition of integrity

-Not complex
-What does it look like and what does it say to those interested in pursuing it (as opposed to an academic or research perspective)
-What would trigger a decision to engage this discussion and activity?

6.Doing the right thing for the right reason, always and everywhere
-Always try to do the right thing for the right reason regardless of time or setting
-Integrity and or as a function of authenticity


7.  Integrity is consistent with adhering to personal values and citizenship in general
-Integrity is aspirational. Integrity is dynamic.
-Integrity is developmental occurring throughout one’s life


8.We are seeking through this pursuit:
-The greatest way to achieve happiness/well-being for the community
-Compassion at our core
-Integrity with a purpose to promote humanity
-Includes a strong sense of imagination

9.We are born into compassion
-Integrity, citizenship, compassion, forgiveness are all processes that need to be learned and taught


10. The languishing to flourishing continuum
1:  Absence OF Mental Illness (MI) ≠ Presence of Mental Health (MH)

11.  Compassion:
-What is compassion?
-Benefits of compassion
-Can we expand compassion?
-Cognitively-Based Compassion Training:
a specific approach for developing compassion


What is compassion?

“So the human capacity to care for others is not something trivial or something to be taken for granted.  Rather, it is something we should cherish.  Compassion is a marvel of human nature, a precious inner resource, and the foundation of our well-being and the harmony of our societies.  If, therefore, we seek happiness for ourselves, we should practice compassion; and if we seek happiness for others, we should also practice compassion!”

–H.H. the Dalai Lama, Beyond Religion

Can we expand compassion? Can we cultivate compassion?

“A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive”.

–Albert Einstein

To promote empirically based programs/interventions that cultivate the virtues and values that promote the greatest amount of human and social flourishing. Such as:

Emotional intelligence

This review was followed by a collection of feedback related to the evening assignment to contemplate the future of the Center. From this a series of nine themes or content areas emerged. These included:

1. Practice/Contemplative Practices on Campus/In Curriculum
2. Qualitative/Narrative of the Center
3. Quantitative elements of the Center
4. Widening the Circle: Potential Institutional Partnerships/Dissemination
5. Conceptual/Theoretical activities of the Center
6. Desired 2024 Headlines about the Center
7. Practical Target Areas for Application
8. “Taxonomy of Meaning:” Words that Matter
9. Elements of Identity for the Center


From this discussion of the Center several ad-hoc groups formed to continue key aspects of this unfolding. They included:

  1. Development of a vision statement, a mission and a series of goals for the Center
  2. Development of a series of strategies to address each goal
  3. Develop of the tactics needed to address each strategy
  4. Review of a proposal developed by Professor Keyes to measure integrity and changes in integrity among a student population over time.
  5. Adaptation of the Keyes proposal to the circumstances of Life University in collaboration with Professor Keyes
  6. Exploration of the development, management, editing and publication of an edited volume addressing the key content areas of the Octagon Conference and the Center
  7. Development of a facilities plan, staffing plan and preliminary budget for the operationalizing of the Center for Compassion, Integrity and Secular Ethics
  8. Identification of leading players in this field
  9. Discussions about getting news of the progress of Life University and The Octagon in the areas of secular ethics and compassion (1) approval of the Positive Psychology Master’s program with secular ethics track (2) progress toward operationalizing the Center to His Holiness the Dalai Lama in support of his agreement with President Riekeman of October 2013
  10. Finalization of the name of the Center: “The Center for Compassion, Integrity and Secular Ethics”
  11. Discussion about the placement of The Center within the organizational structure of Life University, i.e. as a component of The Octagon, as a free standing entity reporting elsewhere in the University?