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Dalai Lama to visit Iowa in 2010

July 15, 2009

By MELANIE S. WELTE | Associated Press Writer
1:40 PM CDT, July 14, 2009
DES MOINES, Iowa - The Dalai Lama is coming to the University of 
Northern Iowa next year to share his views on education in a global 
society, the university announced Tuesday.

The 74-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize 
laureate will visit the university in Cedar Falls on May 18. It's his 
first trip to Iowa.

"One of the ties we have to him and to the Tibet cause is that we've 
played a role in educating a lot of the Tibetan students that have 
come to the U.S.," said Kristi Marchesani, assistant director of 
admissions/international relations for UNI.

UNI is one of about 15 U.S. colleges that works with the Tibet Fund to 
provide scholarships to Tibetan students, UNI spokeswoman Rebecca 
Schultze said. The fund helps Tibetans improve their lives and 
preserve their cultural, religious and national identity.
The Tibet Fund usually sends one to two students to UNI each year to 
pursue master's degrees and enroll in other programs, said Tenzing 
Choephel, program coordinator for the Tibetan Scholarship Program, 
which is managed by the Tibet Fund. UNI has educated about 30 Tibetan 
students since 1994.

"After attending the educational institution at the University of 
Northern Iowa, they go back to India and work for the Tibetan 
communities where they'll be in the Tibetan refugee (area or 
community), Tibetan exile government or any Tibetan community 
service," he said.

The Dalai Lama's visit will include a public talk and interfaith 
religious service, although the details are still being worked out, 
Choephel said.

"Our invitation to his Holiness focused on celebrating education and 
talking about how the impact of education and maybe new ideas related 
to teacher education, especially considering his Holiness has always 
valued and talked a lot about the role of education," Marchesani said.

UNI has 465 international students from 70 counties, Marchesani said. 
Its largest population is from China, with 72 students.

The Dalai Lama, a Buddhist monk, is seen as a figure of moral 
authority in much of the world but deplored by China as a "wolf in 
monk's robes" who seeks Tibet's independence from China.

He has lived in India since fleeing Tibet following a failed 1959 
uprising against Chinese rule over the Himalayan region.

"We know that we have a little bit of a challenge. There will be an 
educational process in letting students know more about the Dalai Lama 
and his teachings and the challenges of the Tibetan community," 
Marchesani said.

Choephel said the Dalai Lama's trip to Iowa is part of a larger visit 
to the United States. Those details are still being worked out as 
well, he said.

UNI invited the Dalai Lama in 2007, and he accepted last summer. It is 
not unusual for him to accept offers to speak from universities, 
Choephel said.

"If you look at his visits in the U.S., almost 90 percent of his 
visits are to educational institutions," he said.

The Dalai Lama was in the U.S. in May, and he is scheduled to return 
in October.
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