The requirements for the concentration include A) two required courses (a gateway course and a capstone course); B) four elective courses; and C) two practical learning experiences.
The entrance to the concentration is through a gateway course, which is team-taught by members of the faculty and guest speakers from the community. It is designed to give students a broad introduction to the many disciplines and geographic areas of the field, as well as to bring together faculty from diverse departments and programs.
The capstone course consists of a seminar in which a student works closely with a faculty member to design and implement an independent research project. Since we already offer at least one seminar in Buddhist Studies each year, collaborative research projects can be carried out in the context of existing courses. If the Buddhist Studies concentration reaches (or nearly reaches) a total of 15 students each year, we plan to offer a separate capstone seminar.
The four elective courses support the student's particular area of interest, distributed across three dimensions: geographic, disciplinary, and level of study. A student should address at least two of the following regions: South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia, Western Buddhism; her courses should be drawn from at least two of the following disciplines: religious studies, philosophy, history, anthropology/sociology, art history, comparative literature, the natural sciences; and no more than two of her courses should be at the 100-level. Courses that do not focus specifically on Buddhism (e.g., courses in East Asian literature, Chinese history, Korean culture, South Asian anthropology, American Studies) can count toward the concentration if a student does a substantial project related to Buddhism in the course. Courses should be chosen in consultation with the concentration adviser in order to ensure a balance between breadth and coherence.
While languages are not part of the concentration, students are encouraged to study languages of Buddhist countries (particularly in connection with international study and Praxis opportunities), and we note that languages are essential for graduate admission.
Practical Learning Experiences
A student is required to take two courses that involve practical learning experiences, including international travel, internships, and community service learning. Smith students are already involved in numerous study abroad programs in Buddhist countries, many of which involve independent study projects in the local community. Through the extended local contacts of our faculty, we have also identified a host of intern/Praxis opportunities, including working with nuns in the northern Himalaya region of Ladakh (e.g., the Jamyang Foundation or Gaden Relief project) to the "humanistic Buddhism" of Taiwan (involving medical work, education, orphanages, and other social welfare projects), working with Buddhists and government in Japan (the third largest political party in Japan is Buddhist-affiliated), work with socially engaged Buddhists in Thailand dealing with ecological and political issues, participation/observer projects in monasteries, and, of course, academic projects in Buddhist universities throughout the world. Mongolia, Korea, China, Sri Lanka and other parts of the world less represented in our curriculum offer numerous opportunities, many of which are close to the hearts of our faculty -- and hence accessible to our students. Interestingly, two of the consistently intertwined themes running through these opportunities are women and women's education.
We also encourage students to pursue community service locally in the numerous Buddhist organizations in the area. These opportunities range from academic (the numerous Buddhist teachers invited to the area), to activist (the Peace Pagoda in Leverett), to ethnographic (working on the SAL project described above), and simply learning while helping (working with the local Khmer community in their local temples, for example).