Budget cuts won’t stop UofA Buddhism degree

University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart said earlier this month that the budget passed by the Arizona Legislature would “have devastating effects on the University of Arizona, but we will continue to strive for excellence and serve the students who are at the heart of that future.”

The 2 percent cut in funding to the state’s universities in the budget isn’t stopping the universities from offering degrees that few will find of interest and even fewer will find profitable. For example, on Tuesday, “in response to the increased adoption of traditions originating from Asia and to the expanding transcultural nature of the world,” the University of Arizona announced it will begin offering an undergraduate minor focusing on Buddhism.

The program is targeting students in a range of disciplines to provide them with a greater understanding of Buddhist societies, cultures and values, according to a statement released by the University. The minor will become available for the fall semester.

“Much, if not most, of the Asian world is Buddhist, or has Buddhist traditions, and Buddhism is a large component of the Asian value system regardless of the country you visit,” said Albert Welter, head of the UA Department of East Asian Studies.

Welter, also the associate director of the School of International Languages, Literatures and Cultures. “We are here to inform people and to create knowledge and understanding about different traditions. Overall, the program is meant to help students appreciate different philosophical, ethical and spiritual approaches to knowledge.”

In addition to the minor, the department, in conjunction with the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry, is launching a Buddhist Lecture Series, which is free and open to all. All lectures will be held at 4 p.m. in the Ruble Room of the UA Poetry Center.

Welter presented the first lecture, “Reading a Zen Classic: The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch,” earlier this month. Celestino Fernandez, a UA sociology professor, will present “Happiness and Buddhism” on April 14. And Jiang Wu, an associate professor of East Asian studies, will present “Religious Imagination in the World of Lotus Sutra” on May 5.

Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry recently offered Memory, Resistance and Social Communication, Past to Present: 25th Annual Symposium on Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literature, Language and Culture.

“I am delighted to see the development of the Buddhist studies minor,” said Javier Durán, director of the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry. The program was launched as “a rapid synergistic result” of work led by Confluencenter’s Contemplative Traditions Working Group, which evolved out of the center’s Innovation Farm program.

“The minor reflects effectively how research and curriculum merge for the benefit of our students and promises to energize Buddhist studies at the UA,” Durán said. “It is a great example of how interdisciplinary collaborations facilitated by the Confluencenter are impacting the way we think about teaching in our campus.”

The new Buddhist studies program complements a number of UA programs and offerings introduced to expand the study and expansion of contemplative practices, including the Arizona Meditation Research Interest Group, the Center for Compassion Studies, the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and the Program in Medical Humanities.

“In many ways, we are only consolidating, affirming and emphasizing what has existed on campus and in the East Asian studies department for some time,” Welter said.

In the Buddhist studies minor, students will have the option of taking courses covering topics such as Asian Religions, Religion in Japan and in India, Zen Buddhism, Buddhist meditation traditions, and the history of East Asian Buddhism. Students also can take courses on ancient, medieval and modern Japanese religions.

Upcoming Confluencenter Center events:

Women in the Workforce: We’ve Come a Long Way
Saturday, March 21, 2015 – 11:00am
UA BookStores, 1209 E. University Blvd. SUMC 1st Floor

Once upon a time, men ran things. There were no women on the police force and precious few in professional fields. The ambition of many a girl was to find the perfect man and get married. Then, from the middle of the 20th century, things began to change. American women of the Baby Boomer generation have seen cataclysmic shifts in circumstances, opportunities and attitudes towards life and love. In celebration of National Women’s History Month, the incredible journey is examined in discussion and song, featuring travelers from the fields of journalism, law, medicine and the arts.

Tucson Cine Mexico
Thursday, March 19, 2015 (All day) to Sunday, March 22, 2015 (All day)
The Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St.

The UA Hanson Film Institute’s Tucson Cine Mexico returns March 19-22 for its 10th year showcase of exceptional contemporary Mexican cinema. This year’s lineup includes outstanding and award-winning documentaries, dramas, comedies, and a thriller. All films will be FREE and presented at the newly renovated Screening Room in downtown Tucson. Visit TucsonCineMexico.org for titles, times and costs.

The Security Archipelago: Rethinking Sexuality Politics in an Age of Global Counter-revolution
Thursday, March 26, 2015 – 6:00pm
UA Center for Creative Photography, 1030 N. Olive Rd.

In this Miranda Joseph Endowed Lecture, Paul Amar articulates new approaches to the study of sexuality politics and police states, offering new ways to read and to confront emergent forms of global power by examining the pivotal, trendsetting cases of Brazil and Egypt. Addressing gaps in the study of neoliberalism and biopolitics, Amar describes how coercive security operations and cultural rescue campaigns confronting waves of resistance have appropriated progressive, anti-market discourses around morality, sexuality, and labor. More information here. Free & open to the public.

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