Arkansas University’s Outstanding Faculty Award goes to Tibetan Geshe professor

Phayul, February 20, 2008

Fayetteville, Arkansas (USA) -- Geshe Thupten Dorjee from the University of Arkansas will receive the "The Outstanding Faculty Award" which is sponsored by the Student Government and the Arkansas Alumni Association.

<< Ven. Geshe Thupten Dorjee

Geshe Thupten is currently the only Tibetan holding Geshe Lharampa degree (the highest Tibetan Buddhist doctorate equivalent to the Doctor of Philosophy) who is a full-time professor at the American university.

The award is typically won by faculty members at Arkansas who have been teaching for 10-20 years. However, Geshe Thupten is already named the winner of the award after being in Arkansas for just 18 months.

Approximately 80 faculty members were nominated for the award; 30 were invited to attend the banquet, and of these, only three were selected to win the Outstanding Faculty Member Award. Geshe Thupten was one of those three.

In their letters of nomination, Geshe Thupten’s students reported that he was the most extraordinary teacher that they had ever had, and that he had changed the very way they think about their lives and what they might do with their lives in the future.

Clearly, it is a wonderful and well deserved honor for Geshe Dorjee, who is originally from Drepung Loseling - Minyak Khangste in India. He will receive his award at a special banquet on February 21, 2008. In attendance will be the Deans of the Colleges of the University as well as the Provost of the University and perhaps the Chancellor as well.

The University of Arkansas was founded in 1871 as the original land-grant and state University for Arkansas. Currently the University of Arkansas's main campus is in Fayetteville where they have almost 20,000 students and 1000 faculty members. They have students and faculty from almost every state in America.

About Geshe Thupten Dorjee

Geshe Thupten Dorjee was born Sonam Palden in Tibet during the Chinese Communist invasion of 1959. He and his family escaped occupied Tibet and headed over the  Himalayan mountains to Bhutan when he was three. Much of Geshe's early life was spent in a refugee camp in Bhutan with other Tibetan exiles. Unfortunately, most members of his family died while there due to the poor living conditions and lack of medical care.

After 8 years of these insufferable living conditions, Geshe and his family journeyed south and settled in Southern India. At the age of 13, Geshe entered Drepung Loseling Monastery in Karmataka, South India. Drepung Loseling Monastery During his years at Drepung Loseling, Geshe taught scriptures and Tibetan grammar to the lower classes while pursuing his advanced course of study. For four years, he was supervisor of agricultural projects at the Monastery. After mastering the five subject areas of Perfection of Wisdom (Prajnaparamita), Middle View (Madhyamika), Valid Cognition (Pramana), Discipline (Vinaya), and Metaphysics (Abhidharma), Geshe was awarded the degree of lharampa geshe, the highest academic degree possible within the Gelug monastic university system.

In 1995, Geshe traveled the world as part of the Mystical Arts of Tibet, a group of Tibetan monks who showcase Tibetan culture, practices and beliefs. During a brief stop in Birmingham, Alabama, Geshe was invited to become an instructor for the Birmingham Dharma Wisdom Group. He accepted the challenge and, through an interpreter, gave weekly lectures on Buddhist principles and meditation to a group of enthusiastic students.

In 1996, Geshe received an invitation to teach at the Losel Shedrup Ling Buddhist Centre in Atlanta, Georgia. After a short time there, Geshe realized he would be a more effective teacher if he had a better command of the English language. Fortunately, in 1997, he received a scholarship to study English at the Intensive English Language Institute at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. He has continued to pursue his studies there. Geshe says, "I need more study in English. I need more study in other cultures, in Western traditions. Everybody is my teacher." Geshe assumed the role of resident teacher at the Fairhope Tibetan Society in Fairhope, Alabama while pursuing his coursework at Spring Hill.

In the Fall of 2006, Geshe accepted a one-semester appointment at the University of Arkansas' Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, teaching courses in Tibetan Culture and Buddhist Philosophy. Student response to those classes led to a second semester, during which he continued to teach the Tibetan Culture class, and added a class focusing on Approaches to Non-Violence based on the lives and teachings of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. The continued enthusiasm of the students resulted in a semi-permanent teaching position at the U of A. Geshe now calls Fayetteville home.

In early 2007, Geshe and Professor Sidney Burris, director of the Honors Program and Religious Studies Program for Fulbright College, founded the Tibetan Cultural Institute of Arkansas. TCIA is dedicated to helping the Tibetan people preserve their endangered culture within the emerging global village, through education, public teachings, demonstrations, exhibits, lectures, films, study trips - in short, with any activity that artfully showcases one of the world's oldest and most comprehensive civilizations. TCIA is currently in the very early stages of organization and is in the process of incorporating as a non-profit educational institution.