Campus News

April 12, 2010

Questions for...Michael Kloss

Inside look at planning the Dalai Lama's visit

His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama and Michael Kloss

Periodic visits to campus by His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama, in his role as Presidential Distinguished Professor, offer a chance for the Emory community and metro Atlanta to engage at the interface of science and spirituality, reflecting the University’s strategic priorities.

Emory Report interviewed Michael Kloss, executive director of University Events, for details about the planning, logistics and finances involved in the Dalai Lama’s visits.

Emory Report: What special opportunities are available to the Emory community when the Dalai Lama returns Oct. 17-19?

Michael Kloss:
“The Professor’s Office Hours: Questions for the Dalai Lama from the Emory Community” will be a unique event featuring a conversation with the Dalai Lama and faculty, staff and students, moderated by President Wagner. We’ll be collecting questions and topics in September for this conversation, which will touch on the breadth and depth of fields and passions at Emory. That event is only open to faculty, staff and students with ID and a few invited guests and sponsors. The cost for this event is significantly subsidized through the other ticketed events, with an average ticket price of under $15, and 1,500 free seats available through a random lottery.

ER: How does planning the ‘The Visit 2010’ compare to 2007, when the Dalai Lama was installed as Presidential Distinguished Professor at Emory?

One big change, of course, is that we aren’t doing a huge, free, public event like the Olympic Park talk in 2007. Economy aside, we always knew that was a one-time event to introduce “The Professor” to the city of Atlanta. It’s certainly not feasible to repeat that type of free event, particularly in this economy.

This year the last time slot (which was devoted to the Centennial Park event in 2007) will be used instead for an exciting event focusing on the humanities — particularly the role of spirituality in creativity which connects nicely with the University’s “Creativity: Arts & Innovation” initiative.

ER: How did you arrive at ticket prices?

Ticket prices were determined based on the breakeven point for the event, accounting for those production and logistic elements that are still unknown. The lowest ticket prices from 2007 are even lower in 2010, and the highest ticket prices are slightly higher. As in 2007, we’ve established special student bleacher ticket pricing for the all-day Compassion Meditation event.

For The Professor’s Office Hours event, the mixture of free tickets and low-priced reserved seats was based on feedback from the 2007 Emory-only event where many students, faculty and staff told us that they’d rather pay a small amount to have a reserved seat rather than wait in a long line for tickets, but also appreciate having many seats available for free.

ER: Will the Dalai Lama’s appearances at Emory generate a profit?

It’s important to know that the Dalai Lama does not accept any speaking fee for events, but there are significant costs associated with events where he is speaking. It is his desire that the hosts charge reasonable admission fees to cover the costs of his visit so that the organization does not have to bear any financial burden for the events.

In addition to the significant costs associated with turning WoodPEC into a comfortable event venue, there are the real costs associated with the security, transportation and logistics of these events.

Money from the sponsorship packages, and hopefully a small amount of profit from the ticket sales (if all events sell out and we don’t encounter any unexpected expenses) will go directly to the Emory-Tibet Partnership and Emory-Tibet Science Initiative through Emory College to further the work that the Dalai Lama is here to support related to Emory’s strategic priorities.

—Staff Reports

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