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Monday, November 05, 2012 - SEHS professors attend Tibetan conference, meet Dalai Lama
By Katie Land, news editor

OU's representatives Wummel (top left), Dr. Groomes (center seated), and Dr. Jain (lower center) with His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama in India. 
Two Oakland University faculty members and a graduate student had the experience of a lifetime when they met with His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama as part of an education counselor’s conference in rural India.

The group travelled to Dharamsala, India this summer in an effort to help integrate Western counseling philosophies and practices into traditional Buddhist programs at the Third Tibetan School Counselors’ Conference cum Workshop.

The 11-day trip was organized by Sachin Jain, Ph.D., assistant professor of counseling, who travels frequently to rural India. It included Darlene Groomes, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Child Studies, and doctoral student Brian Wummel, from OU’s School of Education and Human Services, as well as three professors from across the United States.

“The experience amazed us,” said Dr. Groomes. “The Dalai Lama held my hand while we visited with him. There are many take aways from this experience, both personally and academically. Buddhist philosophy and culture is so fascinating, and has provided something different from any other experience I’ve shared.”

The conference is located in India because of the Tibetan government’s exile, something that affects families, culture, education and all aspects of Tibetan society, Dr. Groomes explained. “The workshop allowed us to speak with people who have found great hope and resilience through great adversity.”

The group was able to see much of this adversity first-hand, as they travelled through the poverty-stricken Indian countryside and formed bonds with exiled Tibetans.

“In U.S. culture, people see life as happiness, but in India, you learn as a child that the world is full of suffering,” Dr. Jain said. “These are extreme ends of philosophy. Whenever I take a group to rural India, all leave feeling the privilege of living in the U.S., where we have basic rights like 24-hour electricity, clean drinking water and education.”

While the caste system has been officially abolished in India, its effects and remnants can be seen everywhere, affecting education, employment, health care, poverty and more, according to Dr. Jain.

There are not many educational counseling programs available in the area, something the conference seeks to change. The OU group worked to enrich the conference with their professional expertise in a variety of topics. Their presentations included “Revisiting American Counseling Association of Ethics,” by Dr. Jain, “What is Inclusive Education and How do Strategies Assist in Adaptaion to Disability?” by Dr. Groomes, and “Forgiveness as a Goal of Therapy,” by Wummel.

The trip was made possible through the support of the university and several grants. Both Dr. Groomes and Dr. Jain plan to connect the experience to research and to share with Oakland students and faculty members.

“I feel very indebted for this experience,” Dr. Groomes said. “I have come away with many new perspectives and was able to see things I would never see otherwise. It is important to always seek new experiences and cultures. I think openness and trust go a long way to make connections with people from different places.”

For more information about Oakland’s SEHS, view the website at oakland.edu/sehs.