Heroic Imagination Projects
By Andria Woodell
What is the Heroic
Imagination Project? The Heroic Imagination Project is a non-profit
organization started by Dr. Phillip Zimbardo. Zimbardo has spent many of his
years researching the situational factors that lead good people to do evil
actions. In his retirement, he has been focusing on the qualities of heroism.
The main premise is if social psychologists can educate people about topics
such as apathetic bystanders, obedience and conformity or situational
blindness, then individuals will be more aware of these circumstances and stand
against them when necessary. http://heroicimagination.org/
Why is it of value? The
HIP projects captured my interest for a variety of reasons:
- It is an opportunity for students to develop
soft skills that will be valued when they continue to universities and graduate
programs. Specifically: team work, public speaking, autonomy and critical
- The lessons are service learning projects
complete with material and step-by-step instructions that allow students to develop
a product quickly.
- Potential community service or research project
for students interested in psychology.
- No grading, just mentorship.
- Using social psychology as a means of making
- Bonus: students get to meet Phil Zimbardo!
Progression of the
In Winter of 2013, COCC hosted the first workshop. There
were 40 in attendance with a mix of faculty and students. Six students
continued with the projects in Spring. The two fundamental ground rules of the
- There is no such thing as a failure. Everything
is a learning experience.
- Anyone can exit the project at any point with
zero judgment or harsh feelings. We do
not focus on hostility, only accomplishing our goal in style.
The first group
of students chose to the topic Mindset. I gave the students the instructional
packet provided by HIP. We agreed they would complete two practice runs before
the final campus presentation. My primary role was to be facilitator. I
advocated for the presentations, set up meeting and provided advice
sporadically on interpersonal dynamics and presentation skills. Over the course
of the term, it was exciting to see the student bond as a team. Many of them
started as introverts who were uncomfortable public speaking. The nervousness began
to fall away and they morphed into finessed, confident leaders. There was so much pride in their projects and
they started to live and breathe the material. The passion for the topic showed
and it seemed like all we ever talked about was Mindset, Growth Mindset, Fixed
Mindset and how this applied to their own lives. The best part was the number of people who
sought the students out to share how their presentations inspired them or influenced
them in some manner.
We ran the
workshop again in Fall 2013 and ended up with two groups for Winter 2013. I was
concerned that the first group may have been anomaly. For the second
generation, the Mindset students served
as mentors. The new groups tackled Bystander Effect and Situational Awareness.
Scheduling was a nightmare for one group and we some attrition over the term. However,
the positive shift happened again. The mentors had the opportunity to notice
the drastic change this time since they were more in an observational
role. One student mentioned he was
experiencing so much pride in his group because he helped guide the new folks
to success. He asked if this is how I
felt while I mentored them. The answer is yes. The last two years, working with
the HIP projects and the COPE club has ranked among some of the most rewarding
moments in my career. As an instructor is has been refreshing to have an
opportunity to slow down the educational process and focus on honing specific
skills with individual students. I am honored to be involved with such an
amazing group of students. I cannot wait to see where they go beyond COCC or how
their lives unfold.
Generation 1: Mindset with Dr. Phil Zimbardo at WPA 2013
Generation 2: Situational Awareness and Bystander Effect at PsycNight! 2014
For more information about the Heroic Imagination Project, please
feel free to contact me at any time! Many thank yous to: Andrea Anaya, Megan
Cole, Deanne Curtis, Wendi Forsberg, Katie Hawkins, Damon Holland, Micheal
Morrison, Stephanie Prutzman, Suci Sonnier, Sara Zobrist and the faculty who have helped promote the HIP
projects and gleefully embraced their
roles as the “audience from hell.”
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