(1 of 7) Varun Soni - Fostering Peace Through Higher Education





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Published on May 5, 2010

Varun Soni serves as Dean of Religious Life of USC. In this role, he brings together the spiritual and scholarly resources of the university, provides moral and ethical leadership for the USC community, and works closely with the 70 student religious groups and the 35 Religious Directors on campus. He also oversees the Interfaith Council, organizes interdisciplinary events that explore religion broadly conceived, and leads ceremonial and memorial events. He is an advocate for the proposed Multi-Faith Center for Research, Reflection, and Practice and he remains a visible and vocal proponent of religious pluralism and interfaith dialogue at USC.
Dean Soni received his B.A. degree in Religion from Tufts University, where he also earned an Asian Studies minor and completed the Program in Peace and Justice Studies. He subsequently received his M.T.S. degree from Harvard Divinity School, where his graduate coursework focused on the religions of the world and their scriptural traditions. Following his studies at Harvard, he received his M.A. degree through the Department of Religious Studies at UCSB, where he continued his graduate study of comparative religion. He went on to receive his J.D. degree from UCLA School of Law, where he also completed the Critical Race Studies Program and served as the Chief Articles Editor for UCLA's Journal of Islamic and Near Eastern Law. He is currently completing his Ph.D. through the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Dean Soni is a member of the State Bar of California, the American Academy of Religion, and the Association for College and University Religious Affairs.
Dean Soni brings a broad range of life experience to the Office of Religious Life. For three years, he taught in the Law and Society Program at UCSB, where he was responsible for designing and teaching the course curriculum for upper-division undergraduate lecture courses. During this time, he also served as a faculty advisor for the Police and Community Rights Project, as a pre-law advisor for Law and Society majors, and as an academic supervisor for undergraduate research projects. While teaching at UCSB, he also launched two successful business ventures; the first will release its first graphic novel next year while the second provides legal support to immigration law firms and their client corporations. As an undergraduate student, Dean Soni spent a semester living as a Buddhist monk in the Burmese monastery in Bodh Gaya, India through Antioch University's Buddhist Studies Program. As a graduate student, he spent months doing field research in South Asia through UCSB's Center for Sikh and Punjab Studies. Born in India and raised in Southern California, he has family on five continents and they collectively represent every major religious tradition in the world.

The Soka Gakkai International (SGI-USA) Culture of Peace Resource Centers in New York, Santa Monica, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Honolulu have launched the Culture of Peace Distinguished Speaker Series to engage people in a dialogue on the values, attitudes and behaviors that reject violence and inspire creative energy toward the peaceful resolution of conflicts. Lecturers in this series focus on one or more of the 8 action areas defined by the 1999 United Nations Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace: (1) Fostering a culture of peace through education, (2) Promoting sustainable economic and social development, (3) Promoting respect for all human rights, (4) Ensuring equality between women and men, (5) Fostering democratic participation, (6) Advancing understanding, tolerance and solidarity, (7) Supporting participatory communication and the free flow of information and knowledge and (8) Promoting international peace and security.

We hope that this eclectic and thought-provoking series of dialogues will empower community participants with a heightened awareness of the subtle shifts in our attitudes and behaviors that can help attain and sustain a culture of peace and to apply what they have learned in meaningful ways to their families, schools, workplaces and local communities. This annual lecture series begins on January 26 of each year to commemorate the founding of the Soka Gakkai International and the yearly publication of a peace proposal by SGI President Daisaku Ikeda. All lectures are free and open to the public.

For more information, visit:


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