Dr. Joseph Croskey took the message of mindfulness and compassion to the United Nations staff in Cophenhagen, Denmark, this summer as part of the UN and Lululemon’s Peace on Purpose program.
Alongside other experts, Croskey taught three, eight-hour workshops aimed at equipping UN humanitarian and development workers with mindfulness-based tools and practices to prevent burnout, develop compassionate leadership skills and more.
“The workshop aims to offer tips, tools and practices to help participants enhance awareness, cultivate connection and resilience, as well as build capacity for skillful navigation of dynamic conditions and diverse people,” Croskey said.
Croskey, chair of the Department of Student Achievement and Success at PennWest Clarion and executive director of the Frederick Douglass Institutes for Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education, is known at Clarion for practicing yoga and mindfulness and sharing his expertise with the campus community.
"Joe has a kind and peaceful spirit and sees the best in everyone he meets," said Rogers Laugand, assistant vice president for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Clarion’s Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity Education.
The workshop explored the idea of emotional intelligence and how mindfulness can help build a greater self-awareness as individuals develop an understanding of how circumstances impact them and how they impact others, Croskey said.
“We discussed the role of context in behavior choices and how emotions show up in our bodies and influence our decision-making and behavior,” he said.
Participants explored the areas of presence, identity and intersectionality, as well as ways people can cultivate intercultural competence and psychological safety for themselves and their teams. Participants also learned about compassionate leadership, investigating the four key pillars: attending, understanding, empathizing and helping, Croskey said.
Croskey quoted Michelle Maldonado, who designed the workshop: “By first paying attention and cultivating our understanding of challenges, we build our capacity to empathize with others; to care for them and to feel their distress in some way,”
Empathy is key in work and in life, especially because of the stressors we experience, he said.
“I regularly get frustrated by how people treat each other. Then, I remember that I need to treat people better myself – and remember to practice the self-compassion that I teach,” Croskey said.
The workshop included meditation and closed with a commitment and plan to integrate what they’d learned into their work. Participants agreed to support one another in becoming compassionate leaders.
Croskey believes the lessons can benefit everyone, not only UN workers.
“I definitely think that these principles can be applied in a variety of settings. I’m certain that most of us encounter dynamic conditions and can benefit from developing skills to cultivate connection and build resilience,” he said.
Croskey was connected to the Peace on Purpose program through a colleague a few years ago. He participated in trainings to become a trainer at the Garrison Institute in New York, and then he served as a trainer in Zimbabwe and then online during the COVID pandemic.
He intends to promote this type of leadership in The Frederick Douglass Institute and the State System.