Seven years ago, Tulane University and the city of New Orleans were devastated by Hurricane Katrina, the worst natural disaster in United States history. In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and continuing today, the Tulane University School of Social Work committed to being a part of the rebuilding of the city and to contributing to the healing of its population through our service to community, to teaching, and to research. We learned many lessons as a result of this disaster. Among the most important, we learned about the deep trauma that occurred among the city’s population and about the many diverse ways to support and facilitate healing. We learned about the extraordinary resilience of the people of the Gulf Coast region.

The School’s engagement in supporting communities and individuals and thereby contributing to this healing has been central to the School for many years. Since it’s beginning as a school of social work in 1927, engagement in supporting communities and individuals has been a consistent and central role of the Tulane School of Social Work. More recently, the School’s dean, Ron Marks, began an affiliation with programs that support the Tibetan refugee population living in north India, in the small village of Dharamsala, home to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

For over 12 years, Dean Marks has been conducting a graduate social work class in north India where Tulane graduate social work students travel to India for several weeks in the fall. There, they work closely with the Tibetan refugee population and with the Louisiana Himalaya Association (LHA), a local social service organization that provides services to Tibetan refugees in Dharamsala and in surrounding villages throughout north India. LHA offers services in critical areas related to resettlement issues, especially in the fields of education, employment, healthcare, and housing.

This long standing and deep relationship between the School, LHA and the Tibetan communities in India has been a mutually rewarding one. Marks has stated “I firmly believe that whereas we have much to offer the Tibetan exile community, we also have much to learn from it. They have a profound wisdom from which we have much to learn. Tulane students have experienced transformational learning from this involvement.” As a natural extension and outgrowth of this deep engagement and ongoing relationship, the Tulane School of Social Work extended an invitation to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to come to New Orleans which His Holiness graciously accepted.

In the original invitation, we stated “A visit by Your Holiness to New Orleans will contribute enormously to furthering the healing of our city’s residents. Your presence in New Orleans and your universal message of responsibility, love, compassion, and kindness will offer much to our ongoing healing…Tulane University’s post-Katrina efforts and our School of Social Work’s ongoing efforts to promote service to humanity certainly parallel Your Holiness’s calls for universal compassionate action.”

We are extremely pleased to host His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama on this historical visit to New Orleans. I invite you to explore the website and learn of the events leading up to and during the weekend of May 16 – 19, 2013.

Ron Marks, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S.W.
Dean, Tulane University School of Social Work
New Orleans, Louisiana