Professor Ahluwalia with his Lifetime Achievement Award.
The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Pal Ahluwalia has been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the University of California (UC), Riverside for his distinguished contribution to the promotion of Sikh Studies in the Diaspora.
Professor Pal received the Dr. Jasbir Singh Saini Endowed Chair in Sikh and Punjabi Studies award during the 6th Sikh Studies Conference held at the University of California, Riverside on 3 May 2019.
The award enables faculty and students to explore the culture, religion, history, literature, art, economics, language, politics and scientific contributions of the Sikh people from their origins in the sixteenth-century Punjab region of India to the present.
“These kind of positions come with a sense of responsibility – that we have to give back to people who depend on you in a way. This is how I have approached all my academic career and it just happens this is special to me because of my religious affiliation. It is tough to do research and when you become Vice-Chancellor it becomes very difficult, but I am able to do it with God’s grace,” said Professor Ahluwalia, who is the sole author of four books and editor of three Routledge journals.
Professor Ahluwalia expressed his appreciation adding that he was honoured and privileged to be considered for the award, which recognised Sikh Formations- Religion, Culture, Theory, a journal he co-edits which has become the premier journal in the field.
A prolific publisher, Professor Ahluwalia explained that for a number of years although Sikh Studies was not his primary area of research, he wrote about the diaspora and conditions for people in the diaspora.
“This award is certainly very dear to me,” he expressed.
Getting an award from UC, which he believes has one of the best public education system in the world, is something that he values very much, considering that he has worked at two UC campuses – Berkeley and San Diego.
“I never worked at UC Riverside but it is one of the ten campuses of the UC system.”
Professor Ahluwalia is privileged that he was able to make a difference “although it is not my main academic area but as a Sikh I have a huge commitment to the Sikh community so it is particularly pleasing that not only does it recognise my academic credentials but also recognises the kind of community outreach work that I really believe in.”
Professor Ahluwalia said he hoped that “all of our academics will apply the same principle - that not only do we do academic work but we reach out and work with the communities that we have relationships with; that we not only are inside the university but that we are also outside it.”
“These awards are a recognition of things I have done and also a way for other staff to see that, one, their VC is an active researcher and, two, that there are commitments outside the university that are just as important,” he stated.
Professor Ahluwalia has, over the years mentored a number of upcoming scholars in the field of Sikh Studies, often at times providing support letters for their promotions and tenures, assisting them to read and comment on their work and helping in getting them published.
Organised by the Department of Religious Studies at UC with the theme, Celebrating Guru Nanak: New Perspectives, Reassessments and Revivification, the 6th Dr. Jasbir Singh Saini Endowed Chair in Sikh Studies Conference lands on the 550 th anniversary commemorating the birth of the founder of the Sikh religion: Guru Nanak (1469-1539).
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