Photo of a woman holding a hear-shaped object in her hands

Sociology 101 students practice acts of kindness and compassion

Heather Hurwitz, a full-time lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Case Western Reserve University, challenged students in her Sociology 101 classes to perform acts of kindness and compassion and then post about their experiences on a class discussion thread. The result was an outpouring of good deeds that benefited her students as well as those they helped.

“Sharing acts of kindness felt like I had a support group pushing me to be a better person. It actually did inspire me to do more,” said Anthony Nunnery, a third-year student majoring in psychology. “Reading the comments of my peers gave me hope in the future and the strength of our community at CWRU.”

The idea for the optional assignment resulted from Hurwitz’s work as a volunteer and visiting researcher at Cleveland Clinic. There, colleagues expressed the need to feel the community’s compassion as they dealt with the stress and changes brought on by the pandemic.

Knowing her students were feeling disconnected and unsure how to contribute during the pandemic, she presented her idea to share acts of kindness and was gratified by their response.

“CWRU students are smart, concerned, and engaged,” she said. “Doing virtual acts of kindness and connecting with their communities and families became an outlet while away from campus.”

The idea to add a discussion thread grew out of Hurwitz’s research on creating mass movements for her forthcoming book, Are We the 99%? The Occupy Movement, Feminism, and Intersectionality.

“When I became conscious of how much compassion and kindness would benefit not only my colleagues at the Cleveland Clinic, but also CWRU and other communities, I was able to draw on knowledge gleaned from [my research on the Occupy Movement] and act quickly,” she said.

Here are just of the few ways that more than 100 of Hurwitz’s students were inspired to think and act as a result of her challenge:

Rachel Wyetzner

Biology and human nutrition

“In times like these, it is important that members of society come together to help each other. Countless individuals are experiencing loss, pain and devastation on different scales, making it imperative that we step up and help others in whatever way possible. Whether that is delivering groceries to an elderly neighbor, calling a friend or family member, or thanking a front-line worker, every action can make a difference.

“Throughout our sociology course, we have learned the importance of understanding how our own personal troubles relate to larger social issues, so that we can address the roots of these larger issues. I am proud to see my fellow classmates do so through their acts of kindness.”

Manav Dev Midha

Finance and pre-med

“In these challenging times, it is too easy to lose the personal connections that make our society great. That is why it is so heartwarming to read about all of the amazing things my classmates are doing. If in the toughest of times we are able to still show kindness, I have tremendous hope for the future. Besides, what is a better display of the power of social connection than a virtual network of good deeds? I am inspired by my classmates and hope to learn from them. 

“I recently created a section on the homepage of my nonprofit, Siblings with a Mission, with a list of resources about COVID-19 for people and families of people with disabilities. I have also been involved in the administration of the Student Activities Fee COVID-19 Emergency Fund (SAF-CEF), responsible for approving requests to help as many students as possible.”

Michelle King

Biology and pre-health

“I wrote a letter to caregivers at Cleveland Clinic on, an online appreciation board. It is an awesome site. It is an awesome site that allows patients/caregivers from around the world to write words of inspiration or thanks to the superheroes that are working around the clock during such a scary time! I highly recommend setting aside a few minutes to thank/inspire/send words of love to such selfless individuals.” 

Christina Gonzalez

Medical anthropology major, public health minor

“My mother is an emergency room doctor under a lot of intense emotional stress right now. I have tried to help her out by doing little things like caring for my older sister with severe autism, helping her out with the laundry and offering a lot of moral support. Also, we helped my grandparents get basic necessities and supplies so they can stay safe at home.” 

Michael Pogharian


“I am an EMT and I ride for a volunteer ambulance in my town.”

Cameron Thai

Nutritional biochemistry and metabolism

“I’ve been going to the grocery stores to get supplies for my grandparents, aunts  and uncles who have a higher chance of exposure due to their age. I’ve also been talking with my cousin who is a senior in high school and reassuring him that college will be more fun despite missing out on some high school events.”