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Merrimack Grad, Fulbright Scholar to Attend Harvard To Study Buddhism

May 02, 2018
Joseph La Torre ’15 has spent most of the last two years in Asia, specifically China and Nepal. But this coming fall, La Torre will move back to the United States to work toward a Master of Theological Studies degree at Harvard Divinity School.

He will attend Harvard with the support of a Dean’s Fellow Award — a competitive program that includes a very generous stipend as well as full tuition remission.

With a focus on Buddhist studies, La Torre will specialize in the study of Chinese and Himalayan Buddhist material culture - a topic he previously explored while in Nepal on a 2015–16 Fulbright Scholarship. “I’m mostly interested in the ways that Buddhists express their beliefs visually, and I pay special attention to the themes, iconography, and symbolism of Buddhist paintings,” he said.

La Torre’s interest in Asian culture started while he was a student at Merrimack, where he was a psychology major and religious and theological studies minor. “A big part of my overall interest was always the culture,” he said. “I was very much influenced by my Chinese peers who traveled to the U.S. to attend Merrimack. They were the ones who really exposed me to Asian thought and also helped me to become conversational in Mandarin.”

While at Merrimack, La Torre was an honors student and a member of the Interfaith Alliance club. He received two travel research grants and conducted research in the Psychology Department for three years and even had his name listed on a publication. After graduate school, he hopes to pursue a doctorate, teach, and conduct research to show people how interfaith work can heal many of the world’s problems.

“Merrimack is growing and changing in many ways, and I am very grateful for each and every experience I had. I know that the connections and relationships I cultivated with my peers and professors will last a lifetime,” said La Torre. “The college’s liberal arts curriculum prepared me for this path and I credit my success, most of all, to my many mentors.”

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