Over 60 people interested in all aspects of the university came together for an intellectually packed weekend that brought together many figures from the University’s 25-year history.
On Saturday morning, after prayers and blessing from Swami Svatmananda from the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam family, we had a welcome message from Padmabhushan Dr. Ved Nanda, Chair of the Board of Hindu University of America and a distinguished scholar in his own right. He made an impassioned argument for the need for a Hindu University, highlighting that the United States of America was home to over 600 Christian universities, 15 Jewish universities, and 3 Islamic universities, while there was not a single explicitly Hindu institution of higher learning.
Dr. Ved Nanda felicitated both Braham Ratan Agarwal and Abhinav Dwivedi with the title “Dharma Rakhsaka” in recognition of their long-standing commitment and support for the Hindu University of America.
With the need and desire for a Hindu university palpable in the room of attendees, Kalyan Viswanathan, the interim President of HUA, expressed the view that the reinvention of HUA entailed not merely creating a third-tier institution. “Let’s put HUA on the map” of great universities, he said in introducing the work that had already begun.
In attendance were past presidents of HUA, Dr. TRN Rao and Dr. Yashwant Pathak figuratively passing on the baton, but still engaged and actively participating.
The Vision and Mission Committee shared the process and work they had done, that yielded the new guiding statements:
Vision: Promoting dialog across disciplines, cultures, and civilizations, while enabling self-discovery, conscious evolution and harmony, the Hindu University of America will set the standard for the study of Hindu Dharma.
Mission: The Hindu University of America provides education in knowledge systems based in Hindu thought involving critical inquiry, ethics, and self-reflection. Committed to fostering the culture and traditions of Hindu Dharma in an atmosphere of academic excellence and freedom, it prepares students for service, leadership, and global engagement.
We then had a session on Academic Architecture and HUA’s path to accreditation. Dr. Joydeep Bagchee laid out the framework and main criteria for achieving accreditation through the Distance Education Accreditation Commission (DEAC). Dr. Kundan Singh shared his thoughts on accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). The due diligence on accreditation had given rise to the view that the initial focus of the university should be to strengthen the MA/Ph.D. program in Hindu Studies as the most effective path to accreditation. Overall, with a core faculty of five experienced, dedicated, and capable scholars, we are building a strong foundation of intellectual rigor that will challenge students, raise the bar and put Hindu intellectualism on the map.
A new website and learning management system, both under development, focused on student accessibility and public engagement was previewed.
Moving onto the afternoon on Saturday there were back to back breakout sessions where attendees shared thoughts, ideas, and suggestions focusing on Academics and Advancement. Bringing everyone together and focusing on the task of raising funds to sustain the university was an important exercise that engaged attendees as stakeholders.
The Saturday’s evening session featured a rousing and inspiring talk by Saumitra Gokhale, laying out how the Hindu University of America could be a beacon to Hindus across the world. Finally, after an intense day, we enjoyed a sitar recital by Dr. Kanada Narahari.
Sunday was decidedly different with a focus on what academic paths and foci the university could undertake. A range of panelists, scholars, and experts spoke on topics that included Sanskrit, Hindu Chaplaincy, Hindu History, Yoga Psychology, Ayurveda, and Media and Professional Writing. Many different pathways for the development of courses and programs for the University were discussed, and the rich variety of possibilities being showcased was truly inspiring.
Inspired by the state of progress, Braham Ratan Agarwal pledged $1 million dollars as a seed gift that would support the reinvention phase and helped the Hindu University of America take some ground towards its goal of $6 million in this round of fund-raising.
We look forward to building on the success of the Advancement Conclave with deeper engagement with the broader Hindu community.