Contemplative Sciences Center Assumes Leadership of Dalai Lama Fellows



Contemplative Sciences Center Assumes Leadership of Dalai Lama Fellows

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A version of this story originally appeared in UVA Today.

Dalai Lama Fellows includes annual cohort of emerging young leaders from around the globe.

The Contemplative Sciences Center recently assumed responsibility for one of the world’s most unique and innovative leadership initiatives.

"The dizzying pace of our world, and the previously unfathomable acceleration that technology has engendered, make it increasingly difficult to acquire self-awareness and gain a clear perspective of our complex world," said CSC Executive Director, David Germano. "Leaders are therefore unable to gain the understanding necessary to lead with the kind of holistic intelligence and compassion that is increasingly imperative."

It is this challenge and these times that inspired Germano and the CSC team to bring the renowned Dalai Lama Fellows (DLF) program under the center’s widening umbrella.

Founded in 2010, Dalai Lama Fellows has been dedicated to facilitating the emergence of a new generation of compassionate leaders who are able to bring a commitment to self-reflection and compassion to create holistic change in their communities and throughout the world. 

The program includes bookended gatherings that will occur at UVA; an innovative and interactive online curriculum; individualized mentoring; group learning; and a project geared toward social innovation, social change, social justice and deep engagement with a community of choice. It is a natural fit for CSC, Germano said, and a perfect platform for its growth moving forward. He said he sees the program bridging what many see as the disparate worlds of self-reflection and the pursuit of social justice around the world.

“People sometimes tend to think of contemplative work as inward-facing pursuits in the form of mindfulness, yoga, prayer, or other forms. On the other hand, you have this whole domain of social innovators and social justice entrepreneurs who are getting out into the world and pursuing the change they would like to see in the communities and environments in which they are embedded. I think the importance of this program is that it gives us the opportunity to bring these two into a more intimate union with each other that reveals the falseness of such a dichotomy between change and cultivation happening inside and outside.”

Its commitment to the program, Germano said, will also allow it to expand the center's efforts to integrate social innovation and justice with contemplation, and to reach younger generations representing countries and cultures around the world.

“Over the course of the center’s six years at UVA, we have made significant impacts at UVA in areas that range from student life to health science and beyond, and I think we have done important work in teaching people how to think about and practice diverse types of contemplation, including how it can be adopted in a variety of contexts,” Germano said.
“Today we are at a juncture where it is imperative that we connect that work to external engagement with the larger world, whether in the context of a university, a company, a political effort, a state, a local community or a nation. And I think that this convergence of the internal, of working on ourselves, and working on behalf of others, is one of the most critical challenges we face – not only within higher education, but within our society overall,” he said.

Each year, the program selects 25 to 30 individuals from around the world to participate in a 12-month course of engagement that The fellows are committed to integrating these external activities with a commitment to internal, contemplative and reflective self-work including cultivating compassion and resilience. Once the fellowship is completed, participants join an international community of fellowship alumni who have the skills, the network and the capacity to work together to bring about change in the world around them, Germano, said. Over the years, the fellowship program has grown to more than 150 individuals across 40 nationalities.

Germano – a professor of religious studies who also heads UVA’s Tibet Center and the Sciences, Humanities, and the Arts Network of Technological Initiatives, or SHANTI – will work alongside existing center staff and newly hired, fellowship-dedicated staff to lead the program at UVA. 
Marty Krasney, the founding director of Dalai Lama Fellows, agreed the University and CSC are well-suited to move the program’s mission forward.
“In UVA and CSC, we have a partner that is really aligned to the core purpose of our program,” he said. “CSC is walking the same kind of walk that we have tried to walk, and the institutional benefits, the extensive reach and the enormous alumni base provide just the type of platform the program needs and deserves.
“When you add to that the leadership and vision of David Germano and the outstanding team he has built at UVA, it is clear that this is the absolute best vehicle to help carry us to the next place.”
The Contemplative Sciences Center was founded in the spring of 2012 with the mission to explore contemplative practices, values, ideas and institutions both historically and in contemporary times – to better understand them, and to apply related principles in modern contexts toward human flourishing. The center’s mandate is to pursue research, learning and engagement related to contemplation and flourishing across all schools and organizational units at the University, and to become a national and international leader in this rapidly growing field of activity.

Photo at Right: Fellows share Bhangra dancing, a traditional dance from the state of Punjab in India, during the annual Global Leadership Assembly, held at UVA last summer.

View the Dalai Lama Fellows website here.