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Veena Rani Howard Named Endowed Chair in Jain and Hindu Dharma at California State University at Fresno

Veena Rani Howard Named Endowed Chair in Jain and Hindu Dharma at California State University at Fresno

  • She will teach Hinduism and Jainism along with other Asian religions and support Jain and Hindu scholarly endeavors for students, including scholarships, stipends and research funds.

California State University at Fresno has named Dr. Veena Howard, an associate professor of religious studies in the Faculty of Philosophy, as the first Endowed Chair in Jain and Hindu Dharma, the university announced last week. Howard specializes in Asian religious traditions such as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. She is also the coordinator of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program in Fresno. As Endowed Chair in Jain and Hindu Dharma, Howard will teach Hinduism and Jainism along with other Asian religions and support Jain and Hindu scholarly endeavors for students, including scholarships, stipends and research funds.

“With this endowment, Fresno State will build bridges of understanding to these ancient and beautiful religious traditions. It will offer opportunities to ensure student success, and it will broaden their intellectual horizons and beyond,” said CSUF interim president Jiménez-Sandoval. “Dr. Veena Howard is uniquely qualified to hold this chair. She has a background in the languages, philosophies and religious practices of both of these traditions, and with her expertise, she will lead us in expanding the study of dharma at our University.”

Speaking at the appointment ceremony last month, Howard shared her personal story of growing up in both Hindu and Jain Dharma traditions and expressed her gratitude and enthusiasm for this appointment. “Like two rivers running parallel and at times intertwined create a rich ecosystem, Hinduism (traditionally known as Sanatana Dharma) and Jainism (Jain Dharma), originated on the Indian subcontinent, for over three millennia serve as a model to building pluralistic and peaceful relations. Mahatma Gandhi was a product of both Jain and Hindu traditions and teachings. Gandhi was born in a Hindu family but was strongly influenced and molded by Jain friends, monks and Jain vows.”

As per the university paper, Fresno News, over two dozen families, individuals and foundations came together to create the Endowed Chair in Jain and Hindu Dharma. “The groundbreaking partnership between the Jain and Hindu communities and the University underscores a mutual commitment to educating current and future generations of students about the principles of nonviolence, dharma (virtue, duty), justice, pluralist philosophy, the interconnectedness of all beings and care for the environment through Hindu-Jain texts, philosophies and traditions,” the paper said. 

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“We are so grateful to the unprecedented number of generous donors who have collaborated to create this remarkable gift, and we are excited about Dr. Veena Howard’s appointment as the first Jain and Hindu Dharma Endowed Chair,” said Honora Chapman, the interim dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. “Dr. Howard is a scholar of both traditions and loved by her students. Thanks to this endowment, Fresno State’s students will have expanded opportunities to learn how they can change their own lives and the world through pursuing Jain and Hindu enlightenment in their studies while putting nonviolence and peace into action.”

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