Hickory – Through the power of storytelling, art and entertainment, Lenoir-Rhyne University is hosting a three-day symposium of events from March 30 to April 1. The aim of the symposium is to address the national mental health crisis on a local level by targeting two vulnerable groups in the community — hospitality workers and students.

The Art of Compassion Symposium focuses on equality, caring, addictions and recovery. It is an opportunity for various audiences to listen to world-famous storytellers, industry empathy experts and wellness professionals. The symposium concludes with a musical storytelling performance by country star Martina McBride.

The symposium is presented by the Lenoir-Rhyne University Visiting Writers Series, Ben’s Friends and Imagine One Hospitality, a Robert W. Lackey company. Symposium proceeds benefit the Lenoir-Rhyne University Visiting Writers Series and Ben’s Friends, a support group founded in 2016 for members of the food and beverage industry. Information and tickets are available at https://theartofcompassion.net.LRU’s Symposium

Schedule of Events – Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Acclaimed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie captures the power of storytelling

Wednesday, March 30, 2022, 7 PM, doors open at 6 PM at P.E. Monroe Auditorium.

Tickets are $25 for general admission; free to LR students with a discount code, and are available at https://theartofcompassion.net. The event is a combined fundraiser for Visiting Writers Series and Ben’s Friends.

Nigerian author and Ted Talk superstar Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie opens the symposium conversation with her presentation “The Healing Power of Stories.” Audience members will be able to ask questions at the end of her performance.

Best known for her themes of politics, culture, race and gender, Adichie’s novels, short stories and plays have received public and critical acclaim. Adichie was born in Enugu, Nigeria, in 1977. She grew up on the campus of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where her father was a professor, and her mother was the first female registrar. She studied medicine for a year at Nsukka and then left for the United States at 19 to continue her education on a different path.

Her first novel, “Purple Hibiscus,” won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and her second novel, “Half of a Yellow Sun,” won the Orange Prize. Her 2013 novel “Americanah” won the U.S. National Book Critics Circle Award and was named one of “The New York Times” Top Ten Best Books of 2013. “Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions,” was published in March 2017. Her most recent work, “Notes On Grief,” an essay about losing her father, has just been published.

In addition, Adichie has delivered two landmark TED talks: her 2009 TED Talk “The Danger of A Single Story” and her 2012 TEDx Euston talk “We Should All Be Feminists,” which started a worldwide conversation about feminism and was published as a book in 2014. Adichie’s work has been translated into more than 30 languages. She is a past recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant and currently splits her time between Nigeria and the United States.

Schedule of Events – Thursday, March 31, 2022

Panel of speakers focuses on healthy hospitality

Thursday, March 31, 2022, 7 PM, doors open at 6 PMat P.E. Monroe Auditorium

The event is free. Register at https://theartofcompassion.net.

Join the panel discussion of Steve Palmer, John T. Edge and Chenelle Bragg as they share their stories of life, sobriety and love for the restaurant community. During the event, in-person donations will be accepted to benefit Ben’s Friends, a nonprofit organization that Palmer started in 2016. It is dedicated to offering hope, fellowship and a path forward to hospitality industry professionals who struggle with substance abuse and addiction.

Restaurateur discusses personal journey of addiction and recovery

Steve Palmer is the author of “Say Grace: How the Restaurant Business Saved My Life.” The restaurant business enabled Palmer’s addictions—normalizing his drinking and drug use until he could not function. As a result, he wrecked his marriage, racked up DUIs and managed restaurants worth millions of dollars. In his book, Palmer shares how he got sober, how others might find their way to sobriety and why he still loves the restaurant community.

Expert author and food commentator provides insight to industry

John T. Edge hosts the television show “TrueSouth,” which airs on the SEC Network and ESPN. A longtime columnist for “Garden & Gun,” Edge wrote the United Tastes column for “The New York Times” for three years and served the “Oxford American” as a columnist for 22 years. Twice winner of the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award from the James Beard Foundation, he is author of “The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South,” named a best book of 2017 by NPR, “Publisher’s Weekly” and a host of others.

Chef serves healthy options and creative stories

Owner and chef at Best of Both Souls Vegan Restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina, Chenelle Bragg specializes in serving vegan and vegetarian dishes and enjoys sharing her story with others. She was born in the Midwest but has lived in the Carolinas for 12 years. Cooking and baking are her passions that have supported her as a career chef for 10 years. Nearly three years ago, Bragg transitioned to a plant-based lifestyle, sharing it was the best decision she made.

Counselor on a mission to normalize and elevate the dialogue around mental health

Juliet Kuehnle is a National Board Certified Counselor and mental health therapist who owns Sun Counseling & Wellness, a private practice in Charlotte, N.C. She works with individual clients with many presenting concerns, supervises new clinicians and maintains several side passion projects. Kuehnle is on a mission to destigmatize going to therapy and to normalize and elevate the dialogue around mental health. It is her passion to help people learn to show up authentically. Kuehnle is a regular guest and subject matter expert on local news media. She also hosts the popular podcast, “Who You Callin’ Crazy?!” that features practical therapy tips and conversations with interesting people you (want to) know.

Schedule of Events – Friday, April 1, 2022

Mental wellness forum offers wealth of speakers
Friday, April 1, 2022
9 AM to 4 PM
Belk Centrum

The event is free. Register at https://theartofcompassion.net.

Offered both as an in-person and virtual event, the Mental Wellness Forum provides measures for individuals to best implement self-care, boundaries and healthy coping skills. Topics include Mindfulness and Soul-Care, The Art of Meditation and Understanding Our Implicit Biases and Being Inclusive, among other subjects.

Special Guest Martina McBride
Friday, April 1, 2022
7 PM, doors open at 6 PM
P.E. Monroe Auditorium

Tickets are $60-125 and are available at https://theartofcompassion.net. The event is a combined fundraiser for Visiting Writers Series and Ben’s Friends.

Concluding The Art of Compassion Symposium, Martina McBride offers an intimate night of musical storytelling. Multiple Grammy nominee, McBride has sold more than 23 million albums, including her 20 Top-10 singles and six #1 hits. In addition, McBride has received prominent awards and recognition for her star-studded career, including Country Music Association female vocalist award of the year, an honor she received on four occasions. Aside from her music, McBride is a philanthropist and advocate.

COVID-19 Protocol
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, certain protocols need to be followed. Please visit https://www.lr.edu/coronavirus for proper procedures on attending Lenoir-Rhyne University events. Safe distancing between guests and masks are required for all audience members regardless of vaccination status.

Information and tickets are available at https://theartofcompassion.net.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Martina McBride