October 13, 2010

Many hands help prepare for 'Visit' events

The Dalai Lama visited the campus and the city in 2007.

More than 300 Emory volunteers will be stationed around campus to help.

When His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama visited Emory in 2007, the Office of University Events faced a gargantuan task. They were responsible not only for the “on stage” events, but every aspect of the visit.

Suzanne Eden-Antola and Andrew Shahan, events managers for the Office of University Events, commented about some of the challenges they face this time in what is being billed as The Visit 2010.

Eden-Antola described the recruitment and training of some 340 volunteers, who will be stationed around campus to assist the nearly 20,000 event attendees with everything from getting them onto the 36 buses hired for Oct. 18 and Oct. 19, to helping them find their seats in the Woodruff P.E. Center.

The excitement for Eden-Antola is heightened by anticipation. She is expecting the birth of her first child just five days after the Dalai Lama’s visit.

Shahan says they are using the experience from 2007, “tweaking that and making it even better.” He notes the importance of being “ready for virtually any scenario.”

Ann Borden, executive director of Emory Photo/Video, will have her team of three photographers capturing everything, from official events to candid moments backstage and on. She covered the 2007 event and remembers, “It was an exciting time. The Dalai Lama is not distant, but very personable, engaged and friendly.”

Her job is eased somewhat by the stage designed by University Events executive director Michael Kloss. It contains eight stationary unmanned cameras that will allow closer access with less distraction.

The Emory-Tibet Partnership, with the help of administrator Jim Wynn, is integrally involved with the Dalai Lama’s visit, particularly the International Conference on Tibetan Buddhism taking place during The Visit. Brendan Ozawa-de Silva, a doctoral student and researcher, was hired in 2007 to be the program coordinator for that visit. He also serves as associate director for Buddhist Studies and Practice at Drepung Loseling Monastery in Atlanta.

Ozawa-de Silva will accompany the Dalai Lama and the entourage for three days, smoothing the way, keeping everyone updated at their hotel and at events. He calls the schedule “packed, minute by minute.” He has also been involved in educating volunteers and coordinating events, including the Compassion Meditation Conference, for which he is the organizer.

Another Emory-Tibet Partnership member involved is graduate student Brooke Dodson-Lavelle, who piloted a compassion meditation proram for youth in Atlanta’s group foster care system with Ozawa-de Silva and others, and coordinated a comprehensive continuing education certificate program for The Visit.

With the influx of so many people on campus for Dalai Lama events, University Events has had to coordinate plans to keep campus life going during work and school days.

Classes will continue as normal, and buses shuttling visitors will keep traffic disruptions to a minimum, except on Dickey Drive, which will be closed to general traffic to allow buses to drop off and pick up attendees.

Emory Catering is providing lunches for volunteers and selling box lunches for the all-day event on Monday.

A recycling team will be on hand to clean up the entirely compostable boxes and packaging.

There will be extra sanitary facilities with running water. At the ready will be three sets of emergency personnel, an ambulance, and of course at Emory, there are always doctors in the house.

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