Last spring, with the encouragement of Professor Deepak Shimkhada, four CST students – Jamie Mills, Fiona McMillan, Sundus Jaber, and Taylor Remington – presented at the South Asian Studies Association Conference (SASA) held in Claremont. SASA celebrates South Asia by bringing in scholars from around the world to present their work and art. This year’s conference boasted seventy presenters focusing on three areas: Higher Education, the Social Media revolution across South Asia, and Health and Wellness of the planet, mind, and body.
Dr. Shimkhada said, “I am glad that over the past three years many of my students have participated in this conference. Their participation benefits them in many ways: they gain confidence in public speaking, they share their ideas with senior scholars and receive instant feedback, and they network with a large number of scholars from across the globe.”
Over the past two decades SASA has hosted twelve annual academic conferences at colleges and universities across the US, in India, and once in Russia, and has published six scholarly books and five editions of the journal Exemplar.
Jamie Mills, who has presented at several SASA conferences, said, “The conferences are always great. People from all over the world attend and are very nice and sympathetic to emerging scholars. It’s the perfect place to gain experience and confidence in presenting.” Jamie presented the paper “Brahman and Quantum Physics: Sound, Creation, and Unifying Reality” and also exhibited her art.
Fiona McMillan, who presented “The Enigma of Shiva Nataraj,” said, “I enjoyed this conference very much. I presented a paper which discussed the origins of the world-famous image of the South Indian bronze sculpture, Shiva Nataraja. Reproductions are now sold on Amazon and in metaphysical shops, and appear in Yoga studios, etc., and I traced the journey of this image from East to West over the last millennium. I explained how different cultures give different interpretations of a piece of art – in particular, the image of Shiva.”
Taylor Remington, whose paper was titled “Shakti and its Expression within the Modern Art of Ghulum Rasool Santosh,” said, “I had a great time presenting a paper, and I would definitely recommend any CST student to attend, at the very least. You will experience a multicultural event that highlights some of the most interesting academic work being done on a number of Indic/South Asian religious fronts. It’s a ‘must attend’ for those CST students who are invested in interfaith chaplaincy or interreligious studies.”
Sundus Jaber presented “Meditation and Healing in the Work of Muhammad Dārā Shikūh.” She said, “As a student of Dr. Shimkhada, I pursued the opportunity to present my research at SASA and receive feedback from other students and scholars focused on South Asian studies. While I am a Bayan student in the Islamic chaplaincy program, this was an extremely enriching professional experience for me because of my interests in South Asian history and mysticism. I am sincerely grateful to Dr. Shimkhada for this opportunity. The SASA conference remains a highlight of my time as a student at CST.”
In addition to monitoring a panel discussion at the conference and encouraging his students, Dr. Shimkhada also presented a paper titled “The Goddess Resides in the Sacred Pool of Mata Tirtha.” He said, “My goal is always to get the students involved in academic pursuits outside of the classroom, and I make presenting a paper at the conference an important part of the curriculum of my courses.”