Empathy Lens

As written by Sean Hauze, Director of Instructional Technology Services at San Diego State University

“The Empathy Lens is a cross-campus collaboration—including faculty, students, and executive leaders—to leverage emerging extended reality (XR) tools to help individuals learn about themselves and others. In an era ripe with distrust and misunderstanding, empathy can be difficult to achieve. While some individuals have the best intentions, racial, gender, religious, and other biases are often evidenced in our daily interactions. But what if we can view the world from someone else’s perspective? Prior research has shown that understanding the perspective of another (i.e., perspective-taking) can foster empathy and reduce implicit bias. The Empathy Lens addresses widespread social inequities by transforming our perspectives through immersive simulation for a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive society. Increasing equitable representation among faculty, staff, and leadership starts with the recruitment and retention, thus this experience focuses there. 

The Empathy Lens leverages advances in XR technology, which have resulted in this type of simulation across professional practices and academia. Using XR technology, we are able to help people experience what someone else is thinking and feeling. This learning modality provides the emotional arousal that grabs learners’ attention and allows participants to learn about high-risk scenarios (like being a person of color being pulled over late at night) in a safe environment. This kind of learning creates the type of emotional safety that is needed for deeper reflection that will make real changes in behavior. 

The goal of Empathy Lens is to develop virtual reality cultural competence training for organizational decision-making across the academic community (including search committees, classroom interactions, staff performance evaluations, and faculty retention) and to align directly with a key priority of the newly published SDSU Strategic Plan: Equity and Inclusion in Everything We Do. Therefore, SDSU is leveraging collaborations with peer institutions and industry partners to amplify the impact Empathy Lens has well beyond the SDSU community. After successfully piloting four Empathy Lens scenarios focused on addressing implicit bias in teacher education and professional learning settings within our Educational Leadership online masters program, we are currently finalizing an Empathy Lens hiring committee scenario. This impact of this scenario will be measured through quantitative and qualitative data measuring the short term implementation strategies and long term outcomes for participants in campus-wide implicit bias hiring trainings. We also plan to collaborate with faculty, staff, and students—including colleagues within our Center for Inclusive Excellence, as well as our newly selected Virtual Immersive Teaching and Learning (VITaL) Faculty Fellows—to develop additional scenarios.” 

SDSU promotional video describing the Empathy Lens

Principal Investigators

James Frazee, SDSU

Sean Hauze, SDSU

Grant Cycle

2022

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