research partnership


The Ben’s Bells Project’s Partnership with the University of Arizona:
Building the Science of Kindness Together

The Ben’s Bells Project’s partnership with the University of Arizona began when a team of researchers, intrigued by the momentum of Ben’s Bells programming, became interested in studying the mechanisms of kindness programming and of kindness itself. We saw visible changes in our community—“be kind” bumper stickers and murals appearing around town—and we began to ask questions about what we were beginning to see in Tucson.  How does kindness programming work? How can the kindness of a person, a school or a business be measured? What effects does kindness have on our health and happiness, our relationships, and our community? The body of scientific research demonstrating the physical and mental health benefits of practicing intentional kindness, gratitude, and self-compassion is rapidly growing. Through our partnership, we see an opportunity to connect this evidence with a community-based effort to discover the impacts of intentional kindness.

Our program of kindness education research is guided by researchers but driven by educators, school-based professionals, and youth. We have had the opportunity to hear from numerous educators and students about how the Kind Campus program is being used in schools across the country. Seed funding from the University of Arizona Foundation and the University of Arizona Office of the Senior Vice President for Research has allowed the UA team to begin to develop measures of kindness and to gather data that can help improve kindness education programming. More than 250 students, educators and school administrators have contributed valuable input into building this foundation from which we can further the science of kindness.

Our long-range goal is to work together to develop Ben’s Bells programming into empirically-based, nationally recognized interventions, improving well-being in our schools and communities and providing opportunities for translational research. We envision a partnership that extends beyond the offices of the Ben’s Bells Project and the campus of the University of Arizona. Building the science of kindness isn’t something that can be accomplished by researchers alone in a lab: it is a process that we believe requires the wisdom and effort of an entire community. In the study of kindness, just as in the practice of kindness, “we’re in this together”. For more information about our current work, please explore the links below. If you would like to get involved in our research and evaluation efforts, please contact Michele Walsh.

Meet the Evaluation Team:

Michele Walsh, PhD
Associate Research Professor and UA Team Lead

Dr. Michele Walsh is an Associate Research Professor at the University of Arizona’s John & Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences, affiliated with the Frances McClelland Institute for Children, Youth & Families.  She is an evaluation researcher with considerable experience in community-based participatory research, and has overseen the design and implementation of studies and program evaluations that address many issues affecting children and families.  Dr. Walsh received her BA in psychology and philosophy from Claremont McKenna College, California; her MA in psychology and philosophy from The Queen’s College, Oxford University, England; and her PhD in Program Evaluation and Research Methods (minor in Developmental Psychology), from the University of Arizona. She has been a visiting professor at the University of Mannheim where she taught courses in program evaluation and applied social measurement, and was a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University.  

Deanna Kaplan
Research Specialist and Project Coordinator

Deanna Kaplan is a Research Specialist at the University of Arizona’s Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences, affiliated with the Frances McClelland Institute for Children, Youth and Families. Her current work focuses on the evaluation of programming and policy affecting youth and families. She is also an executive board member of the Arizona Meditation Research Interest Group (AMRIG), which develops and coordinates activities that facilitate the interaction between science and contemplative practices in Arizona. Ms. Kaplan has substantial experience in mixed method approaches to research and evaluation, and expects to earn her Master’s degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Arizona this spring. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Emerson College, where she graduated summa cum laude.

Violeta Dominguez, MA
Research Scientist

Violeta Domínguez is a Research Scientist at the University of Arizona’s John & Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences, affiliated with the Frances McClelland Institute for Children, Youth & Families. Ms. Dominguez has significant experience conducting qualitative research on public health and other social issues, particularly among underserved populations. Ms. Dominguez received her Licenciatura degree (equivalent to a BA) in History from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City, Mexico; and her Master’s degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin.