Jain Studies graduates admitted into prestigious doctoral programs

By Melissa Burgess

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Two graduate students from the Department of Religious Studies have been accepted into prestigious doctoral programs.

Venu Mehta, pictured at left, and David St. John both held the Rajiv & Latika Jain Graduate Fellowship in Jain Studies at FIU and graduate this Spring.

Mehta, a native of Gujarat, India, has been accepted into the University of Florida, where she will pursue her Ph.D. in religious studies.

“I feel proud being accepted into the University of Florida,” said Mehta, who also was named a Worlds Ahead Graduate for Spring 2017.

Mehta plans to continue her research on how American Jain diaspora communities create cohesive community centers that respect sectarian differences and transcend them to create a unified “Jain” identity that is unique to the diaspora setting.

“I believe this Ph.D. will be a great opportunity to expand on my present research on Jain diasporas in the U.S.,” she said.

Mehta is also an assistant professor of Humanities and Social Sciences at Charotar University of Science and Technology in India and has published an award-winning textbook for English speakers to learn the Gujarati language, based on her work as a Fulbright Scholar at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Mehta said even though she is excited to continue her studies at the University of Florida, she misses her family and her country.

“I miss my mother and I also miss my culture, religious festivals and social gatherings,” she said.

St. John was accepted into the Asian Languages and Cultures program at the University of Texas in Austin, where he will continue his studies on Hindi, Sanskrit and Prakrit languages.

“I am excited to be starting at the University of Texas in Austin,” said St. John. “Professor (Steven) Vose confirmed that it would be a great choice to learn and grow as a student and fully supported me as much as he could.”

St. John plans to continue his research from his master’s thesis, where he compared non-ownership ideals in contemporary American Jain and Quaker traditions through the concepts of aparigraha (non-possessiveness) and the “testimony of simplicity.” He will also continue his research on the evolution of ethics and the way ethics are practiced in real world scenarios.

“I plan on expanding this scope to include gender identity, formation and merit based religious practices,” he said. “I also want to continue projects on sacrifice and salvation, gender issues and social activism that is expressed through religious based ethics.”

St. John said that he is grateful for the religious studies master’s program because it was a positive change in his life that has allowed him to follow his passion.

“The Jain Studies program and Professor Vose have been critical to my success,” he said. “Because of him, I feel prepared to take the next steps. I owe everything to the department.”

For more information on the Jain Studies Program at FIU, visit jainstudies.fiu.edu or contact Dr. Steven Vose, Director and Bhagwan Mahavir Professor of Jain Studies, at 305-348-6728 or svose@fiu.edu.