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From the President

from Currents Fall 2015

This year, students have two more reasons to come to Berkeley and study here at the Graduate Theological Union.

Beginning this fall, the GTU will be expanding the offerings in its Master of Arts program, allowing for a new concentration in Hindu Studies, as well as new options for students in Interreligious Studies. In January, we welcomed to our faculty Dr. Rita Sherma as Director of the GTU’s Hindu Studies Initiative and Associate Professor of Dharma Studies. She will begin offering classes next fall and has already begun building capacity for a major conference and public programs. In this issue of Currents, you’ll read much more about both our Hindu Studies Initiative and the new possibilities for Interreligious Studies.

To allow students greater opportunity to pursue these new programs, the GTU has extended the admissions deadline for its Master of Arts program to July 1. We are also in the midst of contacting South Asia Studies departments, professors, GTU alumni, and others to alert them to these opportunities. Perhaps you know someone who should be thinking about these learning opportunities to enrich their knowledge of Hinduism or the interconnections among the major world religious traditions? If so, please put them in touch with Dr. Andrea Sheaffer, Director of Recruitment and Admissions here at GTU (asheaffer@gtu.edu).

Additional great opportunities are on the horizon. The GTU has been invited by two major funders to bring forward a proposal to create an innovative model for interreligious education. Part of this plan will be to develop a new way for the whole of the GTU, including its many member schools and affiliates, to focus attention on a major global issue. In our Fall 2014 issue of Currents, we highlighted GTU faculty, students, and alumni who are already working on climate change and the environment.  Expanding our work on this topic is one possibility. We are also increasingly focused on addressing religion’s potential contribution to resolving deep-seated social and ideological conflict, especially when these conflicts are rooted in religion.

As we gather practitioners of the world’s religious traditions together around the table—in classrooms, at the library, and in student lounges, scholarly journals, and Euclid Avenue restaurants—we are in a unique position to explore how these religions can speak to the global realities we face and how to deal with the commonalities and disjunctions that emerge from these divergent wisdom traditions. One of the great strengths of the GTU is that it provides a day-in and day-out platform for the sort of deep engagement that keeps partners at the table, because the participants have chosen to be at this place of intersections.

To aid this work, classes at the GTU are supplemented by the celebration of worship, festivals, forums, conferences, and artistic performances and exhibits. We want participation by students, alumni, and wider publics at many levels—touching mind, body, and spirit as we grapple with ways that humans learn and engage in social transformation. We invite you to join the dialogue, too—in person or online. We hope to see you soon!