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PSY 03 W — The Science and Practice of Strengthening Compassion

Quarter: Fall
Course Format: Online (System Requirements)
Duration: 6 weeks
Date(s): Sep 24—Nov 2
Drop Deadline: Sep 27
Unit: 1
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $385
Instructor(s): Kelly McGonigal
Limit: 125
Status: Closed
Please Note: Online courses have a new refund policy. The full tuition refund deadline for this course is 9/27 at 5:00 pm (PT); 50% tuition refund deadline is 7/2 at 5:00 pm (PT).
Sep 24—Nov 2
6 weeks
Drop By
Sep 27
1 Unit
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
Kelly McGonigal
Please Note: Online courses have a new refund policy. The full tuition refund deadline for this course is 9/27 at 5:00 pm (PT); 50% tuition refund deadline is 7/2 at 5:00 pm (PT).
Compassion can be defined as the desire to relieve suffering, rooted in a sense of connection, caring, and courage. In this course, we will explore both the latest scientific research on compassion and the practical considerations for strengthening compassion in everyday life. We will explore the evolutionary and biological basis of compassion, how culture shapes who we feel empathy for, the most common barriers to compassion, and how compassion can be learned. We will also discuss the importance of self-compassion, how to deal with compassion fatigue, and how to translate a compassionate mindset into meaningful action.

The instructor for this course is a program developer and instructor for the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE), which is striving to create a community of scholars and researchers, including neuroscientists, psychologists, neuroeconomists, and contemplative scholars, in order to undertake a rigorous scientific study of the neural, mental, and social bases of compassion and altruistic behavior.


  • Course sizes are limited.
    You won't have 5,000 classmates. This course's enrollment is capped at 125 participants.

  • Frequent interaction with the instructor.
    You aren't expected to work through the material alone. Instructors will answer questions and interact with students on the discussion board and through weekly video meetings.

  • Study with a vibrant peer group.
    Stanford Continuing Studies courses attract thoughtful and engaged students who take courses for the love of learning. Students in each course will exchange ideas with one another through easy-to-use message boards as well as optional weekly real-time video conferences.

  • Direct feedback from the instructor.
    Instructors will review and offer feedback on assignment submissions. Students are not required to turn in assignments, but for those who do, their work is graded by the instructor.

  • Courses offer the flexibility to participate on your own schedule.
    Course work is completed on a weekly basis when you have the time. You can log in and participate in the class whenever it's convenient for you. If you can’t attend the weekly video meetings, the sessions are always recorded for you and your instructor is just an email away.

  • This course is offered through Stanford Continuing Studies.
    To learn more about the program, visit our About Us page. For more information on the online format, please visit the FAQ page.

Grade restriction: No letter grade

Kelly McGonigal, Lecturer, Stanford Graduate School of Business

Kelly McGonigal teaches for a wide range of programs at Stanford, including the School of Medicine and the Graduate School of Business. In collaboration with CCARE, she has conducted scientific research on the benefits of compassion training. She has received the Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching at Stanford. She is the author of The Upside of Stress and The Willpower Instinct. McGonigal received a PhD in psychology from Stanford.

Textbooks for this course:

(Recommended) Thupten Jinpa, A Fearless Heart (ISBN 978-1101982921)
(Recommended) Joan Halifax, Standing at the Edge (ISBN 978-1250101341)