While no objector to Starbuck’s coffee, Rob Lisak would rather explore a more ancient tradition in which liquid refreshment is but one of the outcomes. The creator of a short video reflecting his fascination with the meaning-rich Chinese tea ceremony, Lisak has put himself on a steep learning curve as an Honors College student. Nearly two decades removed from the traditional high school-to-college progression, he is pushing himself back even further into time as well as academic rigor. A Religious Studies and East Asian Studies double major, Lisak has joined Professor Albert Welter and others around the University of Arizona’s Hangzhou Buddhist Culture Project. Fueled by a three-year grant from The Khyentse Foundation, the project has two ambitious goals. “Hangzhou is a global mecca for Buddhism that hasn’t been explored as fully as sites in India, Tibet and elsewhere in China,” offered Lisak. “This is the China of which Marco Polo spoke.” Now embedded in the team, he’s offering creative implementation both of the scholarly research as well as teaching resources being produced from the ambitious imitative begun in 2018.
States Dr. Welter, “Rob’s participation is instrumental to the development of the second outcome (in particular), the creation of new courses and components utilizing state of the art virtual and audio-visual enhancements that will transform the ways students engage the sources and materials relating to East Asian Buddhism.” While The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism center on suffering, Lisak is present to make the path smoother and less painful for faculty, graduate research assistants and student peers. After twenty-five years of living the rock and roll life followed by a move from Chicago, Lisak is finding a new rhythm as part of the Honors College. One that puts his inspired energy into legacy-building outcomes.
“Every interaction I've had with the Honors College has been full of encouragement and concern for me as a student. I really get the sense that they care about their students in the Honors College getting the absolute best experience at the UA. Not only that, they seem proud of all their students’ accomplishments. It feels like being on a team,” observes Lisak. When this astronomy minor’s destiny moved from a potential scholarship in India to landing in China, he pursued a new course that included producing video training materials on his own time. While clearly not a quote from the scroll-borne texts at the center of the project, Lisak’s personal philosophy about the Honors College is more timeless and universal than his five well-chosen words of colloquial English might suggest.
“You’re here. Make it happen.”
A thought worth contemplating. Over a cup of carefully prepared Chinese tea.
Editor’s Note: Rob’s journey continues both with his academic studies as well as trips to China slated for 2019. HONORS WEEKLY plans to stay current on his endeavors as part of covering the project led by Dr. Welter.