The University of Calgary has partnered with the Sikh community across Canada to establish a multidisciplinary Research Chair in Sikh Studies.
Discussions between Gurdwaras, community stakeholders, and the UCalgary administration have created a path to increase Sikh centric courses with cutting-edge graduate-level research.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a one-of-a-kind globally recognized program at UCalgary.
Toor emphasized that, "The way we're approaching this is grassroots [and] community-oriented. We want the community to be involved in all aspects and all angles."
Toor says that there are some programs for Sikh Studies in various diasporic communities, but this has not yet been seen in Canada.
"America has seven Sikh research chairs, five in California, one in Michigan and one in New York. But all of this is very unprecedented and ground-breaking, never heard of before in Canada,” he added.
“There are some other programs that focus on Punjabi cultural aspects but we're looking more specifically at Sikh community from a religious aspect, intertwining with Canadian society."
The initiative's immediate goal is to establish a minor in Sikh Studies, with at least 10 classes being offered September 2021.
Then Dr. Grewal and Toor hope to continue to grow and build higher, as other religious study programs have done.\
There are various programs and even specific schools that specialize in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious studies. Their programs have been developed over many generations in order to become the powerhouses that they are today, for example, the Center for Jewish Studies at Harvard.
Toor added that the Canadian diaspora can hopefully build their legacy the same way.
"I feel like a lot of our history is remembered through an oral account, but now we have an opportunity to cement that through academics" he said.
The initiative hopes to create institutional bridges that will last forever.
This is an important initiative, because creating a lasting impact in an institution of higher education is a powerful way to commemorate Sikh Heritage Month.
We asked Toor about his experience with establishing the program, and what he's most excited about.
"The one thing that I am most excited about is how we can bring Sikh scholars from different fields together. There's so many bright Sikh youth doing different things in different fields, but there's always a disconnect in the community when it comes to youth working together."
National consultation and academic conferences will impact the Sikh community and the world through collaboration. The initiative seeks to provide future generations with a better grasp of the Sikh tradition, culture and thought.
Steeven also shared the program's long-term vision with us:
"Imagine an annual Sikh research conference with different Sikh scholars coming together in different cities or Sikh scholar spotlights to highlight young Sikh researchers that are doing phenomenal work at different universities,” he said.
"The possibilities are endless. We could partner with other Sikh-led organizations within academia and focus on subjects that matter to the Sikh community."
To establish this position, UCalgary is requesting the community to demonstrate their interest by raising $250,000. This creates a three-year full-time position and allows for the national consultation process to begin.
This goal can be cut in half by raising $125,000 between April 1 and April 22 during UCalgary’s annual Giving Day campaign.
Individual donations of $25 to $2500 CAD are matched dollar for dollar during
this time period.
Give online here.
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About the author: Gurshabad’s educational background in Biology and Psychology is inspired by her lifelong pursuit to seek and decipher the human connection. She loves McDonald’s fries, long walks on the beach, and telling people how to correctly pronounce her name. She regularly forces her friends to sit in her car & record a podcast aptly named Sitting In The Car. You can find her but more importantly her dog, @gurshabadkang on all platforms.