how I got started | I'm the first Hindu in American history to be
the chief religious leader of a university. In that way, USC really
made a decision that was out of the mold. Many of my colleagues at other
campuses are ordained Protestant ministers and my hiring was unique. On
my part, this wasn't a job that was on my radar either. I was an
attorney, I went to law school, I was a radio disc jockey and I started
two businesses, I traveled all over and lived for a while as a Buddhist
monk. But all of those things, I now realize, helps me do the job that I
do now. This is an academic position but has many aspects of media,
legal issues, and entrepreneurship. I never planned for a position like
this but now I'm here, I can't imagine a more perfect job.
why this job?| Everything that I've studied has had a focus on
religion. I did my undergraduate work in religion and my masters at
Harvard in divinity. Even when I studied law, I focused on the first
amendment [freedom of religion and speech]. This job requires a
tremendous understanding of the breath and diversity of religion, set in
an academic community. Ultimately in my life, I have tried to combine
the scholarly and the spiritual. Inspiration came from all over the
place. There were years when I spent traveling S. Asia, visiting
monasteries, churches, mosques. I did my dissertation on devotional
why I love this job!| I love the university environment. I spent
years as a student and then as a professor. I love the interaction with
students and being able to create experiences that are meaningful for
students. With this job, I love that there's a policy aspect to it also.
We had students sit down with people from Homeland Security talking
about what it meant to be Muslim in America post 9-11. I love this
aspect of policy and the spirit of engagement. And finally, I love that
the job is at USC, in Los Angeles, my hometown. This city is so creative
and entrepreneurial -- the arts, cinema, music. It's a very
international and diverse city.
my typical day| I work with the 80 student religious groups and
the 35 religious directors at USC. There is really no typical day. I
oversee the Interfaith Council, I organize interdisciplinary events
within the community. I also head memorial events and other religious
what they are | A job with religion at its core is challenging.
Historically there are tensions between religions. There is also
politics in religion and politics in a university. We are also an
international campus. What happens in the rest of the world affects us
and our students. A terrorist attack in Mumbai affects us. It can be a
challenging position but ultimately it is rewarding.
all about growth | There is no set path. What I may do in the
future I really don't know, but there is so much that I would like to
accomplish in this job now.