Bulldogs Abroad

Tibetan Buddhist monks

Tibetan Buddhist monks visited the University in April. Students are heading to India for May Term to study with His Holiness, the Gyalwa Karmapa.

May Term takes University students to many destinations around the world. One of those destinations is Dharamasala, India, where 16 students will travel to the residence of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa, spiritual leader of the Karma Kagu sub-school of Tibetan Buddhism, and the third senior most spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism.

The Johnston Seminar May Term class, taught by Professor Karen Derris, offers students the privilege of meeting the Karmapa, 26-year-old Ogyan Trinley Dorje, who expressed interest in meeting Western college students with the goal of sharing what Buddhism can offer the global community.

Dorje is the 17th Karmapa, and is expected to become the next face of Buddhism after the Dalai Lama. Buddhists of the school of the Karma Kagu believe the holder of the 900-year-old position to be a reincarnated figure.

Derris said the Karmapa wishes to meet with his “generational peers” in an effort to establish an international conversation about spirituality in a multi-religious world. 

“The Karmapa and his researchers believed it would be beneficial to work on the collaborative project in a concentrated period of time,” Derris said. “That the Redlands students could come for May Term and devote all of our time and focus to the project worked well with their needs.”

“The Karmapa chose us to be his guests which I consider a great honor. I know our time with him will be inspiring and conversational,” said student Anne Heuerman ’13, a religious studies minor enrolled in the course.

Students enrolled in the seminar have developed five topics of conversation to discuss with the Karmapa:

  • Environmental activism
  • Food politics
  • Gender equality
  • Human rights
  • Consumerism and greed.
During the spring semester, the class composed abstracts to prepare for their conversations with the Karmapa near the village of Dharamasala, where they will stay for 24 days.

“I’m incredibly interested and excited to meet a world figure who has enough influence to actually make a difference in global issues. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Katie Ferrell ’11, a Johnston senior emphasizing in psychology.

The students will stay at a guest house at a nunnery and live according to the customs of the local culture. Derris points out the objective of the course is dialogue with the Karmapa about their aspirations for the world in the 12 sessions the class has scheduled with His Holiness.

 Other trips included in the 2011 May Term itinerary:

  • A trip to the small island nation of Palau, where students will learn about the island’s unique and fragile ecosystem and how to protect it through meetings with local politicians and dives to the beautiful reefs of the Palauan rock islands
  • A community-service based trip to Cambodia to assist in the construction of a preserve for the dwindling elephant population
  • Learning about approaches to language learning and development in educational settings in Guatemala
  • Learning about tropical ecosystems in Costa Rica and visiting research stations in cloud forest, dry deciduous forest and lowland rainforest as well as exploring coastal ecosystems
  • A unique opportunity to study Chinese culture in China and teach oral English in both a Chinese university and a Chinese high school
  • Learning about world hunger and about the problems of international development during a study tour to Nicaragua  
  • A walk in Shakespeare’s footsteps through London, where students will take in live theatrical performances at world-class theatres and visit historical landmarks, museums and memorials
  • A course that focuses on three cultures, the Sephardic, Muslim and Basque, that contribute to the diversity of modern Spain
  • Exploring the culture of Peru through food and cooking, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, volunteering and adventure travel

Offerings in the U.S. include:

  • An introduction to animal ethics through hands-on service for animals at local animal sanctuaries and shelters and volunteering at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the nation’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary in Utah
  • An introduction in Washington, D.C. to the domestic and foreign policy making process in the U.S. government, taught by University of Redlands faculty and University alumni with practical experience in federal agencies, on Capitol Hill, and in private consultancies


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