Hindu University Graduation Ceremony
Hindu University of America awards First Master’s Degree in “Ayurveda”and
First Master’s Degree to a European
Photo Captions: Photo 1. (029) Jan Willem van Doorn (on left), receives Masters Degree in Vedic Astrology from President K.C. Gupta (in middle) and Chairman R. P. Agarwal; Photo 2 (032) Piyush Desai receives Master’s degree in Hindu Philosophies from President K.C. Gupta (in middle) and Chairman R. P. Agarwal; Photo 3. (056) Dr. Renu Khator, Provost & Vice-President Academic Affairs University of South Florida delivers Commencement Address; Photo 4 (059) Two of HU degree recipients with faculty, BOD members and the chief guest. Sitting left to right: Dr. Ram Prakash Agarwal, Vice-Chair BOD Hindu University; Dr. Renu Khator, Provost Univ. of South Florida; Dr. K. C. Gupta, President, Hindu university; and standing (left to right) Mr. Suresh Gupta, Member HU Board of Directors; Professor Subhas Tiwari; Mr. Abhinav Dwivedi, Vice-President and Secretary BOD of HU; Dr. Vivek Shanbhag, Adjunct Professor with HU; Mr. Jan Willem van Doorn, recipient of master’s degree in Vedic Astrology; Mr. Piyush Desai, recipient of Mater’s degree in Hindu Philosophies; and Professor B. V. V. K. Sastry of Hindu University.
On Saturday, June 3, 2006, Hindu University of America located in Orlando, Florida, hosted the Fourth Graduation Commencement. This particular graduation made history with an award of the very first Master’s degree in Ayurveda, out side of India, to Dr. Kumar Upadhyayula. It also awarded the very first Master’s Degree to a European student, Jan Willem van Doorn. The ceremony awarded degrees to students from USA, Canada and Holland.
The ceremony started auspiciously with traditional Hindu prayers recited by Professor Dr. B. V. V. K. Sastry. Chanting was offered to the presiding deity of Hindu University shrine, Sri Vishnumaya Durga by the graduating students led by Dr. Sastry, and Professor S. R. Tiwari. Dr. Ram Prakash Agarwal, Vice-Chairman of the Board, Dr. Kuldip C. Gupta, President of HU, and Abhinav Dwivedi, Vice-President and Secretary, BOD of HU, presided over the ceremonies.
Mr. Jan Willem van Doorn was awarded the first Master’s Degree in Jyotish. (Vedic Astrology). His research thesis was about astrological factors in Dutch Painters’ creativity. Mr. Piyush Desai, of New Jersey, was awarded Masters Degree in “Hindu Philosophies”. Mr. Balliram Chadee of Canada was awarded the degree of “Master of Hinduism.”
Instead of the western custom of cap and gown, the long-time Indian tradition was followed with embroidered ceremonial shawls draped around all graduates while receiving their degrees. Students formally pledged to uphold the dignity and integrity of the knowledge acquired and to place it at the disposal of humanity.
Vice-chairman, Dr. Agarwal, presented an overview of the mission and the challenges in front of HU. He briefly mentioned about the progress being made and future plan of expansion of the campus. Dr. K. C. Gupta, President, presented the graduation report (please see the report attached below) and gave a detailed account of each student’s accomplishments. The Chief Guest Dr. Renu Khator, Provost, University of South Florida, graced the occasion. Dr. Khator, in her eloquent style, gave the graduation address to the students. She spoke from her heart, and emphasized the importance of dharma and karma and family values. She pointed out how Hindu values can help in the present day global challenges. Abhinav Dwivedi , VP was the Master of Ceremonies.
Afterwards, the faculty represented by Dr. B. V. V. K. Sastry, Professor S. R. Tiwari and Adjunct Professor Vivek Shanbhag of American Ayurvedic Academy, Seattle, WA, provided additional thought provoking addresses and guidance. Each professor had played a key role in the education of both students over the course of their academic pursuits.
As a token of recognition, Ms. Jadeine Shives was presented with a plaque thanking her for two years of tireless and devoted service generously offered to HU. Ms. Shives had played an important role at HU during its period of growth.
The ceremony completed with closing prayers and delicious luncheon.
Hindu University of America
Fourth Graduation Ceremony
June 3, 2006
Graduation Report (by University President, Dr. Kuldip C. Gupta)
Mr. Chairman, Honorable Chief Guest Dr. Renu Khator, Members of the Board of Directors, Faculty, Staff, Students of Hindu University of America, and Guests:
Let me add my personal note of welcome and thank you for joining us this morning for this Fourth Graduation ceremony of Hindu University of America. During the three earlier graduation events held in 2003, 2004 and 2005 respectively, Hindu University has awarded 18 degrees of Master of Hindu Studies and last year our first degree of Doctor of Hindu Studies. In continuing that tradition, we are here today this morning to honor four additional graduates with master’s degrees from Hindu University. Later in July this year, we will be awarding a Doctoral degree to one of our students at Hindu University’s Extension Center in Bangalore, India. Several others are expected to complete their doctoral programs later this year and early in 2007.
The four students graduating today and their degrees’ name are as follows:
Jan Willem van Doorn: Master of Hindu Studies – Jyotish (Vedic Astrology)
Piyush Desai – Master of Hindu Philosophies;
Balliram Chadee – Master of Hinduism; and
Kumar Upadhyayula – Master of Ayurveda.
Please note that Hindu University’s program in Jyotish is run in collaboration with American College of Vedic Astrology (ACVA) with its base in Sedona Arizona; and Hindu University recognizes and provides credits for academic work done by students with ACVA. Jan Willem van Doorn is the second student to receive HU’s Master degree in Jyotish as a result of this cooperative program. Jessica Sayles was the first student to obtain her master’s degree in Jyotish from HU in 2004.
Similarly, our Master’s program in Ayurveda is run in collaboration with Ayurvedic Academy with its base in Seattle (Washington). We also have another similar collaboration for Ayurveda program with European Institute of Vedic Studies. The first degree of Master of Ayurveda from Hindu University of America that is being awarded this morning is the result of our collaboration with Ayurvedic Academy, Seattle (Washington). This is the first Master of Ayurveda degree to be awarded in this continent, and could be considered an historic event in which all of us are participating this morning.
Continuing this tradition of collaborating with other academic institutions, let me share that recently Hindu University has signed a memorandum of understanding with Sri Aurobindo Center for Advanced Research (Pondicherry, India) for two degree programs – Master of Sri Aurobindo Studies and Doctor of Sri Aurobindo Studies. Sri Aurobindo Center at Pondicherry runs an on-line university, by the name of The University of Tomorrow (TUT). In future, we will have students graduating with special studies on Sri Aurobindo and HU will be the first in the world awarding such degrees.
Another new program, that we are developing in collaboration with American Institute of Vedic Studies – the institution founded by Dr. David Frawley, is a graduate program on Yoga-Ayurveda. This new program, the first of its kind anywhere will focus on In-depth study aimed at the integration of philosophy and practice of Yoga and Ayurveda. Another topic of specialization in yoga-related programs, is the new course (that was launched last weekend) on Yoga Psychology, again the first to be offered anywhere in the world. Among other new programs, we have Paurohitya program leading to the degree of Master of Hindu Divinity. The curriculum for this program has been developed and we are searching for a lead faculty member and program coordinator for launching instructional activities in this area. “Spiritual Counseling” is another new program in the planning stages at HU.
Our student enrollment is growing gradually. Total number of students who have been registered in one or more courses from HU so far exceeds three hundred. Currently Hindu University has about 100 active students. Three of these students are fairly advanced in working towards doctoral degrees. One of these three has completed her doctoral qualifying examination, and other two are going through that stage. Many others are working towards Master’s degrees. We can look forward to award of more degrees in coming years. However, I will like to point out that all of the currently active students are not necessarily aiming at “degree” as the main goal of their studies. Most of our students join us for a deeper understanding of Yoga and Hindu traditions, for the joy of learning in new areas, and for learning how to lead a better life.
As Hindu University is growing up as a distance-education school, we do not see these hundred students here in Orlando. In fact, about 90% of these students are not local. They are located all over the country, some in Canada, some in Europe, India and other parts of the world. In fact, out of the four students graduating today; the one located closest to Orlando is from New Jersey, one from Seattle Washington, one from Ontario, Canada, and one from Holland, Europe. In order to cater more efficiently to our student population around the world, and to enhance the efficacy of our distance education we have started delivering our courses on-line. Recently we signed a contract with Blackboard Inc., the leading vendor web-based-education portals in this country, for on-line version of our flagship course on Principles of Hinduism developed by Professor Sastry. Gradually, such on-line delivery will be extended to all HU courses that are appropriate for this mode of instruction.
Apart from instruction in various areas related to Hindu Tradition, academic activities at HU also include organization and participation in conferences. Earlier this year, we had organized a conference, here in Orlando, on Ayurveda with focus of health-care for the elderly. It was the first conference of its kind where both Ayurvedic and Allopathic medical practitioners discussed the optimum mode of care for senior citizens. Last year, we co-sponsored and conducted a full-day workshop at the Dharma Summit held in New Jersey in August 2005. In October 2005, we hosted and cosponsored 16th International Vedanta Congress here in Orlando. Later this year, on November 3, 2006, we are organizing a full-day “Workshop on Ethics – Hindu and Buddhist Perspectives;” with Professor Dr. Cromwell Crawford of University of Hawaii as the lead speaker. This Workshop is being co-sponsored by University of Central Florida (Department of Philosophy, Ethics Center, and Women’s Research Center), and by Orlando Regional Healthcare System, Spiritual Care Department. Other major conferences wherein HU participating in this year include: Hindu Mandirs Executives Conference, Atlanta, June 23-25 (where HU is organizing a panel on “Efficient Management of Temples”); 2006 WAVES (World Association for Vedic Studies) Conference, Houston July 7-10 (where HU faculty members are presenting 3 academic papers); and “Religions after 9-11 Conference” at McGill in September 2006 (where again, HU faculty members are presenting 3 academic papers). HU has expressed willingness to sponsor and host 2008 WAVES Conference here in Orlando.
Going beyond purely academic activities, HU faculty, staff and volunteers are also active in community and professional activities relevant to the mission of the University. We have conducted workshop for Orlando hospital chaplains on Hindu culture and traditions so that they can deal more effectively with Hindu patients. We have conducted seminars for school teachers in Polk and Hillsborough counties to provide them more detailed background of India’s culture and traditions. We have participated in workshops for Disney World staff helping them to handle multicultural issues more efficiently. Our faculty members serve of Orlando Regional Healthcare System’s Spiritual Care Advisory Council, and have helped them in organizing Bioethics – End-of-the-Life-Decision symposia every year for last three years. Our faculty members are frequented consulted on Hindu tradition, yoga philosophy and practices, ethics, and spirituality issues by media, community and others. Our research focus is on applications of Hindu thought in finding solutions for problems facing the society today, and we do interact with community on these issues.
Before completing this brief graduation report and presenting the candidates for being admitted to the degrees, I will like to bring to the notice of this gathering that the next graduation ceremony of Hindu University will be held next month, July 16, 2006, at our Extension Center near Bangalore (India). Swami Vivekananda Yoga Research Institute, now a deemed university, located in Jigani on outskirts of Bangalore, runs an extension center for Hindu University specifically for our Yoga Philosophy and Meditation program. Of course, we run our Yoga philosophy and Meditation program here in Orlando and have awarded degrees in this program here. The Fifth Graduation Ceremony next month at Bangalore will be a special event to award the first doctorate degree at HU Extension Center to one of our students there, and that will be the second doctorate degree to be awarded by Hindu University. As many of you will recall, the first doctorate degree from Hindu university was awarded last year on June 25th, in this very hall, to Dr. Mona Khaitan in the program of Yoga Philosophy and Meditation. Next month, Hindu university will be awarding the second doctorate degree which is also in Yoga Philosophy and Meditation program to Dr. Heisman Jina Devi. Her thesis title is “Mantras, their Spectral Characteristics and Use in the Germination of Rice Seeds.”