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University of Missouri

Unexpected Kindness

Religious studies professor starts Academic Kindness blog.

Rabia Gregory

Rabia Gregory, assistant professor of religious studies, publicizes acts of academic kindness in her blog. Photo by Nicholas Benner.

From penning an old-fashioned thank-you note to buying a student dinner, kindness is more common in academia than some might think, according to Rabia Gregory. To prove it, the assistant professor of religious studies launched the Academic Kindness Tumblr, a blog where she shares stories of random and not-so-random acts of kindness sent by students and faculty from around the world.

“There are all sorts of public spaces for venting academics’ views, chronicling unprofessional behavior and posting nasty comments people make in peer reviews,” Gregory says. “We needed a place to talk about the good stuff.”

Gregory started the website in November 2013 after receiving a supportive email from a colleague. Her first post recounted an experience she had at a conference on medieval studies. While in line at a cash-only café, Gregory realized she only had a credit card. A senior scholar behind Gregory paid for her coffee and insisted Gregory pay it forward instead of pay it back. Gregory has since posted more than 70 examples of kindness, including one from a nontraditional student who couldn’t afford graduate school until a professor offered to pay for his family’s health insurance.

“There are a lot of good people out there who are working hard to help other people,” Gregory says. “It’s not normal for someone to be so cruel that you’re in tears. It’s normal for someone to say, ‘Here, let me help.’ The more people believe that, the more likely it is they’ll help, too.”