February 14, 2009

A Big, Successful Buddhist-inspired American University? No, not Naropa … University of the West.

I didn’t know much about the University of the West…okay, I’d never even heard of this West Coast rival to my hometown Naropa University (oh, the vicious frisbee games we could have). But after seeing its ad on the lovely, info-full Shambhala Sun web site, I thought I’d have a virtual look-see. Here’s some info about its founder, Grand Master Hsing Yun, and University of the West’s origins:

Born in Chiangsu Province, China in 1927, Grand Master Hsing Yun, a widely respected exponent of Humanistic Buddhism, is the founding master of Fo Guang Shan (“Buddha’s Light Mountain”), which is one of the largest Buddhist organizations in the world. Fo Guang Shan was established in Taiwan in 1967 and now has over 100 branch temples around the world including Hsi Lai Temple, and over 180 associated centers, chapters, and colleges. 

The humanistic projects of Fo Guang Shan include a children’s home, a free medical clinic, a senior citizen’s home, prison ministries, disaster relief, and various other forms of community service. Fo Guang Shan also administers and sustains various cultural and educational endeavors including nursery schools, high schools, libraries, museums, colleges and universities. 

In 1962 Grand Master Hsing Yun established Shou Shan Buddhist College in Kaohsiung, Taiwan and subsequently established 12 other Buddhist colleges for the study of the Buddhist Dharma and the education and formation of Buddhist monks and nuns. A noteworthy related activity was the establishment of the Buddha’s Light International Association (BLIA) in 1992. Its membership has grown to over one million in all continents of the world. 

The idea of a post-secondary educational institution combining Buddhist practice and formal academic studies has been a lifelong commitment of Grand Master Hsing Yun. After painstaking preparation, three Buddhist-affiliated universities — University of the West (formerly known as Hsi Lai University), Los Angeles County, U.S.A. (1990),Buddha’s Light University (Fo Guang University) of Taiwan (1993) and Nan Hua University, Taiwan (1996) — were established. They combine Buddhist teaching and practice with academic disciplines and grant a variety of degrees. Through Fo Guang Shan, University of the West is associated with its sister campus (Buddha’s Light University) and with an extensive and distinguished network of temple-sponsored research centers where scholars from many countries engage in research projects. 

Grand Master Hsing Yun was the President of University of the Westfrom its inception to the end of 1997. He is now the President of the Board of Trustees and, along with other members, exercises policy-making and supervisory powers over the University. The administrative and academic functions of the University are entrusted to the President of the University.

The University of the West (formerly known as Hsi Lai University) was founded in 1991 as a contemporary university intent on educating, inspiring, and preparing students to meet the challenges of an increasingly complex and globally interdependent world. In the 21st century, the free exchange of ideas and traditions across cultures is no longer restricted by national borders but advanced through international collaboration, cooperation and community. University of the West is located at the center of this cultural and intellectual exchange as a multidisciplinary and multi-cultural institution that integrates the finest of liberal arts traditions with a global perspective in order to provide a comprehensive student-centered educational experience of the highest quality. 

As reflected in its multidisciplinary educational objectives and culturally diverse faculty and student body, The University of the West is deeply committed to the interaction of diverse cultures and the comparative teaching of international perspectives. At University of the West, students and faculty come together as a community of scholars to participate in an ongoing dialogue between Eastern and Western perspectives to advance knowledge, address societal and cultural issues, and promote education and understanding across cultures. 

The content of the curriculum at The University of the West is designed to educate students as well as enrich. While at the university, students are expected to acquire knowledge and skills and to develop moral, ethical and principled character that will be reflected in their personal and professional life. With the culmination of their studies, students will embark upon careers as professionally trained and intellectually fulfilled individuals who are pro-active, participating members in society, from local communities to international. 

The University of the West is a 
          • Member of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) 
          • Member of NAFSA: Association of International Educators. 
          • Member of American Association Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. 

We are in the Peterson’s Guide to Graduate Programs in Humanities, Arts & Social Science.

Check it out!

Video tour via our pal and Buddhist-blogger-supreme, Reverend Danny Fisher:

Bonus, the Venerable Grand Master himself!

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