The Chillon Project takes its name from the poem by Lord Byron entitled “The Prisoner of Chillon.” Life University’s founder and first president, Dr. Sid Williams, used to recite passages of this poem to convey caution regarding the environments that influence our lives. He noted Byron’s key message: “So much a long communion tends to make us what we are.” The question before us at Life University became, “Could there be a way for us to help change the calculus of the American prison environment by altering the ‘communion’ of those at the center of it all?”

One of the most pressing problems in American society involves the remarkable numbers of men and women who are incarcerated for various offenses. As a nation we imprison more of our own than any other nation in the world.

In 2012 CBS News reported the per capita costs of incarceration, depending upon the state involved, as between $31,000 and $60,000 per year. The annual estimate of the cost of prisons in the United States as of 2012 was in excess of $63 billion dollars.

Yet the burden of the current incarceration crisis cannot be measured in terms of financial cost alone. From a humanitarian standpoint, the cost to our society in terms of lost productivity, disruption of families, long-term post-incarceration expenses, the fracturing of our society, and the unfulfilment of human potential dwarfs the financial losses involved.

The Chillon Project is an undertaking of Life University’s Center for Compassion, Integrity and Secular Ethics (CCISE) together with the Georgia State Department of Corrections (GDC) to introduce full Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree programs in Georgia’s correctional facilities. This will be the first full degree program to be offered by a college or university based in the state of Georgia, and one of the few such programs in the entire Southeast. Another highly innovative feature of the project is that it will include scholarships for correctional officers employed by GDC to also have access to higher education.

Education is the single most important factor to be associated with recidivism. Most states have recidivism rates of around 30-40% within three years of re-entry. By contrast, an Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree program at Marymount University in New York has seen only one Bachelor’s student recidivate out of 63 since the start of the program.

Yet recidivism and financial costs are not the prime motivation for CCISE’s creation of the Chillon Project: we believe that all human beings have an innate capacity to benefit others, and therefore deserve the respect and educational opportunities that can help them achieve their highest potential.

We are grateful to the Georgia Department of Corrections and the numerous experts who have consulted with us as we prepare to launch this project with our pilot group of students in January 2016.

If you would like to sponsor a student or donate to support the program, please visit or contact us at We thank you.

Download our Chillon Project brochure.


Engendering a world in which people act out of an awareness of our common humanity, innate potential, and inherent interdependence, where all can give, love, do, and serve out of a sense of abundance, requires educating young persons in the inner and outer skills that can prepare them to be leaders who bring about positive social transformation in all areas of society. Such future leaders need both tools of critical social analysis and the practices of cultivating inner values: strength, resilience, confidence, courage, self-control, empathy, integrity and compassion—in other words, an education that links heart and mind.

In order to provide such an educational environment, Life University’s College of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies, in collaboration with the Center, took the unprecedented step of creating the Positive Human Development and Social Change Department. This interdisciplinary department merges the Psychology and Business Departments and is adding faculty across a wide range of disciplines, such as peace studies, transformational leadership, and contemplative studies/secular ethics.

The Department is built on a philosophical view that positive human development (inner values, integrity, spirituality, flourishing) and positive social change exist in a self-reinforcing relationship of interdependence, and that by building up the strengths in each, one removes interferences to building up strengths in the other. Only by addressing both can long-term, sustainable and systems-level change occur within individuals and societies. We call this the interdependent model of individual flourishing and social change.



The Department currently offers the following degrees:

  • Bachelor of Business Administration, with a focus on Positive Business, Transformational Leadership and Entrepreneurship.
  • Bachelor of Science in Psychology, with an a focus on Positive Psychology
  • Master of Science in Positive Psychology, with General, Coaching, and Contemplative Science and Secular Ethics tracks.

In collaboration with the Center, the PHDSC Department is also currently developing an interdisciplinary Associate of Arts and Bachelor of Arts in Positive Human Development and Social Change, with concentrations in Peace Studies & Conflict Transformation, Positive Psychology, and Positive Business. The AA and BA degrees will be offered both to traditional students and those enrolling through the Center’s Chillon Project. The PHDSC Department is also in the early stages of developing a Master of Business Administration degree with a focus on Transformational Leadership and Entrepreneurship.

Whether they focus on business, psychology, leadership, or peace studies & conflict transformation, PHDSC students will emerge as:

  • Transformative leaders for social change: Thought-leaders and change-makers who inspire by their very being; who facilitate positive, sustainable social change; who unleash the innate capacities of others;
  • Global citizens: Who understand, can critically analyze, and can participate creatively in global systems and structures;
  • Social entrepreneurs: Who create innovative solutions to the most pressing problems in healthcare, business, education and society, and who capitalize on opportunities for social betterment.


The concept of integrity, despite being of obvious importance and relevance for a variety of reasons, has been largely under-theorized and underdeveloped in psychological science. At Life University, “Integrity and Citizenship” comprise one of the eight core proficiencies that the university seeks to encourage its students to develop and express. As such, in 2014 Dr. Riekeman, President of Life University, suggested that the next five years of the Octagon conferences would be dedicated to the exploration of integrity

In 2014, the Octagon brought together researchers, scholars, and experts in the nonprofit world to discuss integrity, citizenship, secular ethics, and the establishment of the Center for Compassion, Integrity and Secular Ethics. Between the 2014 and 2015 Octagon conferences, a working group on integrity was established among the Center Fellows and others, led by Dr. Tom Pruzinksy of Quinnipiac University, Dr. Corey Keyes of Emory University, Dr. Donnie Davis of Georgia State University and others. The purpose of the working group is to develop an operational definition of integrity, with the intention of developing measurement instruments for integrity for use on both individual and organizational levels. The Octagon Integrity Working Group presented some of its initial work at the 2015 Octagon in April of that year, and continues to explore the issue of integrity, its dimensions, how to measure it, and how to help individuals and organizations maintain, restore, and strengthen it.

One of the unique perspectives that has emerged, especially through the initiative of Dr. Keyes, is to explore the relationship between compassion and integrity. The key question driving this concern is this: can a person’s integrity, if understood as a virtue, be measured and assessed independently of the impact of that person’s actions on others?

To this end, Dr. Keyes, Dr. Pruzinksy and Dr. Ozawa-de Silva reached out to Dr. Kennon Sheldon to hold an event at the World Congress of Positive Psychology in Orlando in June, 2015, discussing the topic of “compassionate integrity.” Dr. Sheldon was, along with Dr. Keyes, a member of the original group brought together to launch the field of positive psychology in the early 1990s, and authored the entry on Integrity in the seminal handbook on Character Strengths and Virtues that proved to be a milestone in the field. The session on Compassionate Integrity, held in the format of a discussion hour, was very well received at the World Congress and attracted some seventy or so participants who actively engaged in discussion around the relationship between integrity and compassion, continuing the discussions started at the Octagon.

The working group is now engaged in collaboratively authoring an article reviewing the literature on integrity and robustly conceptualizing compassionate integrity such that measurement instruments can be developed.


children-in-crossfire-logoLife University and the Center for Compassion, Integrity and Secular Ethics (CCISE) is pleased to be working in collaboration with the Ireland based charity, Children in Crossfire and its Founder and Director Mr. Richard Moore to support Children in Crossfire’s innovative “Educating the Heart” program. The story of Children in Crossfire has its roots in what began as a tragedy and ended as a triumph of the human spirit to overcome adversity.  In 1972, aged 10, Richard Moore was blinded by a rubber bullet fired by a British soldier at point blank range into his face.  Amazingly, from childhood to the present day, he has never allowed bitterness to stunt his development.  “I have learned to see life in a different way”, is how he describes his remarkable acceptance of what, for most, would be a debilitating trauma.

Children in Crossfire is a non-government international development organization registered in Ireland, the UK and the USA, dedicated to improving the lives of young children in some of the world’s poorest countries.Children in Crossfire engages in projects to help children in Ethiopia and Tanzania gain access to clean water, nourishment, education, housing and healthcare. Just as it engages in these projects in Africa,Children in Crossfire is also dedicated to the practice of Development Education in Ireland. Being an organization rooted in justice and fairness, it believes it has a responsibility to engage the public to take action for a more just, peaceful and sustainable world. Children in Crossfire’s Development Education department works with teachers, youth workers, young people, and the wider community to promote the importance of active global citizenship

Inspired by its patron, His Holiness the 14 th Dalai Lama of Tibet, and with the support of Life University’s Center for Compassion, Integrity and Secular Ethics, Children in Crossfire seeks to enhance its Development Education program further by integrating the cultivation of compassion and basic human values into it.

Children in Crossfire’s Development Education program, as currently designed and delivered, has a strong focus on critical thinking applied to active citizenship. It has a clear emphasis on developing the intellectual capacity of individuals to react to global injustice. Including a compassion training element would add a structured and measurable model to build values and emotional stability for a more compassionate approach to taking actions for addressing injustice. To this end, Children in Crossfire invited CCISE’s Associate Director Dr. Brendan Ozawa-de Silva and the Director of the Emory-Tibet Partnership, Geshe Lobsang Tenzin, who is also a Founding Fellow of CCISE, to speak at the launch of the Educating the Heart project in Derry, Northern Ireland, on April 18, 2013, which was presided over by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This event brought 60 key educators, policy makers, community workers, researchers and students together to discuss bringing the cultivation of compassion and basic human values into education. Subsequent to that, Children in Crossfireinvited Dr. Ozawa-de Silva back to Derry to continue work on the Educating the Heart program with Children in Crossfire’s Development Education staff.

The next stage of the Educating the Heart project is a pilot study of a new program that combines Children in Crossfire’s existing Development Education work with techniques for the cultivation of compassion with children aged 11-12 at Oakgrove Integrated College in Derry, Northern Ireland in Fall, 2015. This study will break new ground both in contemplative practices and Development Education. Although a body of knowledge is emerging around the benefits of contemplative practices in classroom settings, no study has looked at the benefits of compassion training as ‘applied’ to active global citizenship. Likewise, no Development Education study has looked at the role of emotional regulation and positive mental states for productive social activism and social change. The hope is that this new program can then be a model for the introduction of compassion-based development education programming in other settings, thereby combining the ideals of compassion with active global citizenship for children around the world.

Visit Children in Crossfire.

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