Faculty in Tibetan Studies at UVa


The Tibet Center has a number of affiliated faculty who are either primarily involved with Tibetan Studies or who have secondary interests in Tibetan Studies. The faculty here listed have long-term appointments at UVa, and either teach full-time or occasionally. They are a core part of the UVa community due their contributions of research, teaching, mentoring, and other activities, as well as their long-term and persistent commitments to Tibet, Tibetans, and the University itself as a community and institution. As a collective, they are distributed across multiple disciplines and interests.

Leslie J. Blackhall
Medical Director, Center for Geriatrics and Palliative Care; Director of Research, Center for Biomedical Ethics. Dr. Blackhall has a Masters of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, where she studied cross-cultural and historical aspects of medical ethics. An expert on the care of dying patients, her research has focused on doctor-patient communication at the end of life, and includes a study of the attitudes of differing ethnic groups towards death and dying. She has also written specifically on Indo-Tibetan medicine.
David Germano
Professor of Tibetan and Buddhist Studies at UVa; director of Tibet Center;  founding director of the Tibetan and Himalayan Library; and director of SHANTI. As a faculty member of UVa’s Religious Studies department since 1992, Professor Germano has taught courses on Buddhist philosophy and culture, ritual and contemplative studies, Tibetan history, Tibetan literature, tantric studies, and classical Tibetan language. He also co-directs the graduate program in Tibetan and Buddhist Studies. Author of numerous articles, as well as editor of several books on Buddhist relics and Tibetan history, his research interests include: the Nyingma and Bön lineages of Tibetan Buddhism; tantric traditions; Tibetan historical literature and concerns, particularly from the eighth to fifteenth centuries; the current state of Buddhism in Tibet; and non-monastic yogic communities in  Tibet. Professor Germano is Director of the Tibetan and Himalayan Library, an international initiative involving several hundred projects based at institutions across North America, Europe, and Asia. In this capacity, he has led projects involving cultural geography interactive mapping, audio-video archives, thematic research collections of canonical literature, historical lexicography, folk music, and other subjects. The initiative also explores how higher education can offer a model of participatory knowledge creation that involves a far greater range of individuals engaged in acts of self-representation from localities across the region. Finally, he is currently directing SHANTI, a broad-based initiative at the University of Virginia aimed at mainstreaming digital innovation in the humanities, social sciences, and arts.
Ariana Maki
Associate Director of the Tibet Center and Bhutan Initiative. Ariana holds a Ph.D. in Art History with a focus on Buddhist art and specializations in Himalayan and South Asian art, and an additional concentration in Islamic Art and Architecture. Ariana has taught specialized undergraduate courses in Art History and Religious Studies and regularly curates exhibitions of traditional and contemporary Himalayan art. She co-authored and edited the first catalog of the National Museum of Bhutan, entitled Artful Contemplation: Collections from the National Museum of Bhutan, among other publications. Ariana’s research interests include the relationships between text, politics and visual representation, the development of Himalayan visual arts, and the intersections of art and ritual. She served as the 2019-20 Fulbright Scholar to Bhutan, where she was affiliated with the Royal University of Bhutan and was awarded an NEH-Mellon Fellowship for Digital Publication for the Life of the Buddha, a project she co-directs with Kurtis Schaeffer (UVA) and Andrew Quintman (Wesleyan).
Worthy Martin
Associate Chair of the Department of Computer Science and Associate Director of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. As a faculty member of the Department of Computer Science since 1982, Professor Martin has taught undergraduate seminars computer science topics, such as artificial intelligence, has directed several Ph.D. theses, and is the author or co-author of 55 papers. His primary research interests include: computer vision, human vision, robotics, genetic algorithms, image databases, and artificial intelligence. In the area of Tibetan Studies, Professor Martin has advised students and faculty on Tibet-related projects and is co-collaborator of “Mapping the Dalai Lamas,” a project which integrates digital texts of classical Tibetan-language biographies with digital animated maps, timelines, and images to present significant events in the lives of the Dalai Lamas.
Kurtis Schaeffer 
Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia and co-director of the graduate program in Tibetan and Buddhist Studies. As a member of UVa’s Religious Studies department since 2005, Professor Schaeffer specializes in the cultural history of Buddhism in Tibet and the Himalayas and, in addition to teaching Literary Tibetan, offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate seminars, including “Tibetan Buddhist Ritual,” “Tibetan Bonpo Thought,” and “Buddhism in Fiction and Film.” As co-director of the THL History Collections, Schaeffer has made numerous contributions to the THL initiatives, including the Blue Annals project, the Historical Sites of Central Tibet project, the Medicine Collections, and the Tibetan Buddhist Canonical Collections. Currently, he is working on “Mapping the Dalai Lamas,” a project which seeks to integrate digital texts of classical Tibetan-language biographies with digital animated maps, timelines, and images to present significant events in the lives of the Dalai Lamas. Schaeffer’s publications include Himalayan Hermitess: The Life of a Tibetan Buddhist Nun and Dreaming the Great Brahmin: Tibetan Traditions of a Buddhist Poet Saint. He is also the editor of Among Tibetan Texts: Essays on Tibetan Religion, Literature, and History by E. Gene Smith and co-editor, with Bryan J. Cuevas, of Power, Politics and the Reinvention of Tradition in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Tibet: Proceedings of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Xth Seminar, Oxford University, 2003.
Michael Sheehy
Michael Sheehy is Research Assistant Professor in Religious Studies, Director of Scholarship at the Contemplative Sciences Center, and affiliated faculty with the Tibet Center at the University of Virginia. Michael has conducted extensive field research and text preservation work with monastic communities inside Tibet, including three years training in a Buddhist monastery in the Golok cultural domain of far eastern Tibet. His writings and translations give attention to literary and intellectual histories of marginalized traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. His current research interests are in the contributions of Buddhism and Tibetan contemplative traditions to discourses in the humanities, cognitive science, and cultural psychology. At the Contemplative Sciences Center, Michael leads an interdisciplinary collaborative to develop an international digital portal that publishes practices and pedagogical resources, encyclopedic essays on historical and contemporary contemplative traditions, and research in the contemplative humanities and sciences. With David Germano, he is the Series Editor of both the Contemplative Sciences and Traditions and Transformations in Tibetan Buddhism book series published by the University of Virginia Press. He is co-editor with Klaus-Dieter Mathes of The Other Emptiness: Rethinking the Zhentong Buddhist Discourse in Tibet (SUNY 2019).
Steven Weinberger
Research Assistant in the Department of Religious Studies and manager of the Tibetan and Himalayan Library. As a member of the THL staff since 2003, Weinberger has supervised many of its initiatives, including the Nyingma Literature Collections, the Tibetan Canonical Collections, the Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, the Tibetan Historical Dictionary, the Bibliographies, and journal reprints. In addition, he has twice taught the intensive Tibetan language program in UVa’s Summer Language Institute, and is a collaborator on Fluent Tibetan: A Proficiency Oriented Learning System. His research interests have focused on the early history and development of tantric Buddhism in India and Tibet, about which he wrote his dissertation, “The Significance of Yoga Tantra and the Compendium of Principles (Tattvasaṃgraha Tantra) within Tantric Buddhism in India and Tibet.” Weinberger is also interested in the practice of meditation, and in particular, the psychological and neurological understanding and effects of meditation.
Brantly Womack
Professor of Foreign Affairs in UVa’s Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics, and holder of the Cumming Memorial Chair in International Affairs. As a member of the Department of Politics since 1992, Professor Womack focuses on Comparative Government and International Relations and covers topics on Tibet in his courses on Chinese politics, which include, “Intro to Chinese Politics,” “China and the World,” and “Chinese Domestic Politics.” He has published on Chinese politics concerning Tibet. Professor Womack is an honorary professor at Jilin University (Changchun, China), and at East China Normal University (Shanghai, China). His current research interests include asymmetric international relations, the relationship of public authority and popular power in China; political reform; provincial diversification in China; domestic politics and foreign policy of Vietnam; China’s relations with Southeast Asia. In addition to publishing numerous journal articles on Asian politics, he is author of China and Vietnam: The Politics of Asymmetry, Contemporary Chinese Politics in Historical Perspective, Foundations of Mao Zedong’s Political Thought, 1917-1935, and Politics in China, 3rd edition, which he co-authored with James Townsend.

Former Faculty

Tsetan Chonjore
Director and Senior Lecturer of Tibetan Language Studies in the Department of East Asian Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. He has been involved in Tibetan language instruction for over twenty years as instructor, lecturer, research fellow, director, and coordinator of various Tibetan language initiatives in Nepal, the United States, and Canada. He has given numerous papers on Tibetan language and is the author of Colloquial Tibetan: A Textbook of the Lhasa Dialect (with Andrea Abinanti, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives) and several other Tibetan language textbooks.
Kabir Heimsath
Kabir Mansingh Heimsath has served as program director for the University of Virginia at Tibet University program in Lhasa. Kabir was previously director for the School of International Training’s Himalayan Studies program and holds a DPhil in Anthropology from the University of Oxford. In addition to his academic pursuits, Kabir works as a freelance consultant, photographer, and tour leader based in Lhasa. His research interests include urban space, art, tourism, and religious practice in contemporary Tibet.
Jeffrey Hopkins
Professor Emeritus of Tibetan Buddhism at the University of Virginia. Arriving at UVa in 1973, Professor Hopkins founded the program in Buddhist Studies and Tibetan Studies and served as Director of the Center for South Asian Studies for twelve years. From 1979-1989, he also served as His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s chief interpreter into English on international lecture tours. He has published thirty-nine books in a total of twenty-two languages, as well as twenty-three articles. His most prominent academic books are the trilogy Emptiness in the Mind-Only School of Buddhism; Reflections on Reality: The Three Natures and Non-Natures in the Mind-Only School; and Absorption in No External World: 170 Issues in Mind-Only Buddhism. In 1999 he published The Art of Peace: Nobel Peace Laureates Discuss Human Rights, Conflict and Reconciliation, edited from a conference of Nobel peace laureates that he organized in 1998 for the University of Virginia and the Institute for Asian Democracy. Recently he published the first translation into any language of the foundational text of the Jo-nang sect of Tibetan Buddhism in Mountain Doctrine: Tibet’s Fundamental Treatise on Other-Emptiness and the Buddha-Matrix. He has translated and edited thirteen books by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the latest being How to See Yourself as You Really Are.
Karen Lang
Professor of Buddhist Studies and Indian Religions and Director of the Center for South Asian Studies. As a member of UVA’s Religious Studies Department starting in 1982, she taught graduate and undergraduate courses on Buddhist history and philosophy, including seminars on Buddhist Ethics, Mahayana Buddhism, and Buddhism and Gender, as well as reading courses in classical Sanskrit and Tibetan. Her publications include Four Illusions: Candrakirti’s Advice on the Bodhisattva Path, Aryadeva on the Bodhisattva’s Cultivation of Merit and Knowledge and numerous articles on Buddhist philosophy and literature. Professor Lang was a member of the translation team that produced the first English translation of Tsongkhapa’s The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment. Her primary research and translation interests focus on the work of the seventh-century Buddhist philosopher, Candrakirti.
Franziska Oertle
Lecturer in Tibetan Language, Department of East Asian Languages, Literatures and Cultures. Franziska taught Tibetan language from 2017 to 2019 after years of living in India and Nepal. Franziska studied Buddhist philosophy and Himalayan Languages at Kathmandu University, where she earned a Bachelors degree and a Masters, specializing in Tibetan Grammar. Franziska has taught colloquial Tibetan language with Emory University Study Abroad semester program, the RYI Intensive Summer Course, the School of International Training, and Sarah College.
Nicolas Tournadre
Associate Professor in the Department of Languages at the University of Paris VIII and at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. Professor Tournadre is a distinguished linguist and world renowned scholar of Tibetan language. He is the author of Le grand livre des proverbes tibétains and co-author, with Sangda Dorje, of Manual of Standard Tibetan, a prominent textbook for spoken Tibetan. As a major contributor to the Tibetan and Himalayan Library, he has served as director of the Reference Grammar project and co-director of the Tibetan Language Learning Resources (TLLR) project. He was also one of the directors of the 2000 fieldwork expedition for the Preserving Living Traditions Tibetan Folk Music project. At UVa, he also served as lead instructor for the 2008 summer intensive language course in Modern Spoken Tibetan.
Tashi Rabgey
Former co-director of the Tibet Center; former lecturer, Department of East Asian Languages, Literature and Culture. Rabgey studied law at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar and earned an LL.M. in international and comparative law from the University of Cambridge where she specialized in critical legal theory and China’s compliance with international legal regimes. She engaged in a further year of advanced studies in comparative Chinese law at the Center for Asian Legal Studies at the University of British Columbia. Rabgey holds a PhD in anthropology from Harvard University. Her current research focus is on law, sustainability on the Tibetan plateau, with a particular emphasis on Tibetan education and language protection. The broader framework for this research is an inquiry into the formation of legal institutions, norms, subjects and consciousness within the context of competing legal orders and transnational normative processes. Rabgey is also co-founder of Machik, a nonprofit organization that develops opportunities for education, capacity-building and innovation on the Tibetan plateau. Rabgey’s focus brought her work in the nonprofit sector to bear in developing new research and policy-oriented strategies for meeting the current challenges confronting contemporary Tibet.
Nicolas Sihlé
Former Assistant Professor of Anthropology. As a professor of socio-cultural Anthropology, Professor Sihlé specializes in the Anthropology of Buddhism; Tantric traditions; Tibetan and Himalayan ritual life and religious specialization; anthropology of religious texts; and socio-religious organization and change in Tibet and the Himalayas. In addition to teaching core departmental courses on “Theory and History of Anthropology,” “Anthropology of Religion,” and “Ritual in Anthropological Perspective,” he offers seminars specifically on Tibet, including “Tibetan Religion” and “Tibet and the Himalayas.” Professor Sihlé’s previous fieldwork includes a study of practitioners of therapeutic practices in Bhutan and of the politics of ritual in the Tibetan diaspora in India. He also has performed fieldwork in Baragaon in lower Mustang and Dolpo, in Northern Nepal, where he analyzed the sociological and religious dimensions of religious specialists known as tantrists (ngakpa), non-monastic householder specialists of mantras and tantric rituals. More recently, he has continued his study of tantrist communities by performing fieldwork in central Tibet and Repkong in northeast Tibet. His research there focuses on the socio-religious organization and large-scale collective rituals. Professor Sihlé’s publications include Rituals of Power and Violence: Tantric Buddhism in a Community of the Tibetan Himalayas.