A journey to Fairfield

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Dr. Jay Valentine is a visiting assistant professor of Religious Studies with a Ph.D. in Tibetan Buddhism studies.  However, as a young undergraduate at the University of Delaware, Valentine himself admitted he did not foresee his life unfolding in the unique way it did.

“I went in having absolutely no idea what I wanted to do,” said Valentine. “In fact I went in originally thinking I wanted to study computer science … that was before Al Gore invented the internet.”

Growing up, Valentine moved throughout the state of Delaware, spending his childhood in the Northern portion of the state before his family settled in Rehoboth, a beach town, where Valentine attended high school.

He will be the first to tell you that he was not the best of students in high school, but it was a realization in his junior year about the kinds of people who “stuck around Rehoboth after high school,” that made him want to pursue higher education.

“To be honest, I didn’t really understand what a university had to offer at the time,” Valentine said.

Admittedly, Valentine is not religious, but “more spiritual.”  After a philosophy course sparked his interest and eventual pursuit of his Bachelor’s degree in the field, Valentine pointed to a single professor who ultimately transformed him during his time at U Del.

“World Religions, with Dr. Fox.  He was well known as being a transformative teacher for a lot of students there,” said Valentine.

Ironically, after this academic awakening, Valentine decided to discontinue his undergraduate studies for seven years, because he was “largely inspired to play music.”

Those who have taken Valentine, in his short term at Fairfield, know him as a clean-cut and modestly dressed professor.  However, during his seven years traveling the United States and playing Reggae music, Valentine described his image as drastically different.

“I used to have dreads down [to my hips],” said Valentine, “… The funny thing is it all really started naturally.

“It was a period of time when I was working multiple jobs and having to commute without a car and had just a really rough time of it, and my hair just dreading at every possible moment … I happened to play in Reggae bands at the time too, so it fit.”

After returning to Delaware at 27, Valentine finished his bachelor degree knowing he wanted to pursue a masters and eventually a Ph.D.

Naropa University, a Buddhist-inspired liberal arts university in Boulder, Colo. allowed Valentine to grow both academically, and with practice, spiritually.  He decided to change his physical image at the time, because he was “tired of people summing me up based on my looks, or writing me off.”

“At Naropa I was always sort of an outlier … I was one of the few, there were certainly others, who was focused on going on and getting a Ph.D,” said Valentine, “I really meant business while I was there.”

After learning both Sanskrit and Tibetan, Valentine was able to receive his doctorate from the University of Virginia, and has done field work in both Tibet and India.

Prior to Fairfield, Valentine has worked at both Johns Hopkins University and Goucher College.  Despite only working as a substitute for a professor on a leave of absence, Valentine has enjoyed his time here.

“This is the best experience of my professional life, so far, is working here,” said Valentine, “…The bittersweet component of it is that it is only a one year position.”

While Valentine has enjoyed working at other institutions, he explained that Fairfield has exceeded in welcoming him as part of the community.

“This is the first time where I have a place of my own, an office,” Valentine said. “In the past I would email students and tell them to meet me at the bench outside of class to go over papers and stuff.”

As the semester continues to roll on, Valentine continues to search for work after Fairfield, but “100 percent definitely” would like to continue working at Fairfield if the opportunity presented itself.

With his long journey leading him to a snowy afternoon in his office, Valentine offered advice to the students of Fairfield: “College is not the minor leagues. Remember that in all aspects. You’re not preparing for another level of school any more … as far as life experiences, this is it. This is what you’ve been preparing for. Take advantage of it.”

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