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Emory Purpose Project receives grant to launch new student workshops
Photo of students smiling and waving while standing inside large EMORY sign

The Emory Purpose Project has received a $100,000 grant from Unlikely Collaborators to develop and launch two pilot programs for undergraduate students.

Aimed at promoting personal growth and increasing self-awareness, each of the five-day workshops will guide students through a process to reflect on and question their perceptions and biases, understand how their goals are shaped by cultural narratives, and explore questions of purpose and meaning. One workshop, planned for spring 2025, will be geared toward incoming first-year undergraduate students, while the second in fall 2025 will be tailored to graduating students.

“Through these workshops, students will develop interpersonal skills that will expand their perceptions of what is possible, helping them flourish both on campus and after they graduate,” says Ira Bedzow, executive director of the Purpose Project. “We are grateful to be working with Unlikely Collaborators and utilizing their concept of Perception Box to help students develop new capabilities.”

Perception Box — a metaphor created by Unlikely Collaborators’ founder Elizabeth R. Koch — refers to a person’s internalized collection of beliefs, experiences and biases that filters what they perceive, influencing how they interpret information and interact with others.

“The Emory Purpose Project is a remarkable gift to Emory students that will help them navigate challenging situations throughout their lives,” says Koch. “It will help them recognize the power they have to look within and achieve their goals. We are thrilled to support these transformative efforts.”

Unlikely Collaborators supports immersive experiences to help individuals understand and examine their own Perception Box and empower them to see beyond personal beliefs and biases to achieve greater acceptance of themselves and others. The organization also does this through forms of storytelling, impact and investments.

Purpose Project leaders hope the workshops continue beyond their test year, bookending the undergraduate experience and providing students with a unique opportunity to explore their beliefs and narratives through a lens of purpose.

“The college years are an excellent time to ask questions about values and purpose,” says Christine Whelan, adjunct professor and “purpose professor,” who has led a campus-wide integration of purpose and student flourishing initiatives. “These new workshops will complement the Purpose Project’s programming, supporting students in realizing career and personal goals, and in practicing the art of inquiry through an increased comfort with asking the big questions of what matters most and how we can make it happen as individuals and a community.”

The Purpose Project, launched in 2023 as part of the Student Flourishing initiative and housed in the Emory Center for Ethics, provides curricular and extracurricular programming for students and workshops for faculty, staff and alumni. Its programming seeks to empower every member of the Emory community to explore, discover and act on what gives their life and work meaning.

For more information, visit the Emory Purpose Project website. Learn more about Unlikely Collaborators through their website.

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