About CASL

Picture of CASL FoundersCASL is the result of a partnership that started three years ago when Tulsa, Okla., based Crossroads Hospice, one of the nation’s leading providers of hospice care, provided a $10,000 grant for a new program to pair Park students from a wide variety of disciplines — including nursing, psychology, social work and journalism — with Crossroads Hospice patients to document patients’ life stories by creating personalized memory books. This year, Crossroads Hospice awarded Park a $100,000 grant to launch Park’s Center to Advance the Study of Loss.

With Dr. Laurel Hilliker as the executive director, CASL will provide multidimensional services to include:

  • Continuing education workshops, conferences and publications to support nurses, physicians, social workers, hospice administrators and volunteers, clergy, police officers, emergency medical technicians, counselors and other professionals dealing with end-of-life issues in their respective fields.
  • Public education and awareness programs with the aim to dispel misconceptions surrounding death and bereavement.
  • Expanded interdisciplinary opportunities for Park students, including a bereavement studies curriculum, and graduate and undergraduate degrees in hospice and palliative studies.

As part of its five-year strategic plan, CASL is consulting with architects to establish a physical location on the Parkville Campus. Park’s extensive online and distance course expertise will enable CASL to offer training and collaboration on a national and international scale.

Message from the Director

As Park University embarks on the establishment of a Center to Advance the Study of Loss, I am honored to be on board and involved with colleagues at Park as well as with professionals in the greater Kansas City Metropolitan area. It is my ardent hope that together we can provide state of the art research and resources for our students who are studying for professions in the field of end of life and bereavement care, as well as support those who are currently working with the dying and the bereaved family.

Dr. Laurel Hilliker
Executive Director, CASL

Faculty and Staff

Laurel Hilliker
Executive Director
Phone: (816) 584-6808
Email: laurel.hilliker@park.edu

Christa Brien
Administrative Assistant
Phone: (816) 584-6503
Email: christa.brien@park.edu

Mission Statement

The Center’s mission will focus on creating a bridge between academic study and practical, applied knowledge in the field of thanatology.

Vision Statement

Our vision is that the proposed center will help to dispel societal misconceptions surrounding dying, death and bereavement and improve the understanding of death as a natural part of our human existence.


Park University has been providing Nursing students with an opportunity for internships with Crossroads Hospice over the past few years. The students assist patients with Life Reviews, which are then presented to their families after their death. The partnership moved owner Perry Farmer to consider collaborating with Park to establish a Center to Advance the Study of Loss [CASL]. When a new faculty member was hired in the Sociology department in August of 2012, Dr. Laurel Hilliker of Michigan State University, whose research specialization is in grief and bereavement, an interest ensued to move forward with a proposal for a center. The proposal, written in collaboration with Dean Jane Wood, outlined a five-year plan with Dr. Hilliker assigned as the Executive Director. Perry Farmer sponsored this new endeavor with funding for 2013 and 2014.