TROY—Buddhist monk Venerable Penh, Troy University College of Education Visiting Scholar, may look a little different than many in Troy, but seated in his office in Hawkins Hall, he seems a perfect fit.
The office is simple with a desk covered in just a few books, a chair for visitors, a nearly empty bookcase and only three images on the wall; the first two are messages about monastic life and the third, a postcard of three smiling children from Laos that Penh takes with him everywhere he goes.
The children live in an area with cluster bombs and land mines, which Penh has pledged himself through Legion for Peace to bring awareness to and ultimately bring to a halt. "I want to learn to smile like (these children)," Penh said.
Those who meet Penh, the second Buddhist monk to hold the visiting scholar title, would be quick to notice his peaceful smile. Penh has spent the fall semester at Troy University, and he will remain here through December.
The visiting scholar program was started in 2009 through TROY's partnership with Pannasastra University of Cambodia, giving Penh, who is from Cambodia, the opportunity to take courses toward his Masters in Education Administration and Leadership, as well as share his culture with University students, faculty and staff. As a lecturer and teaching assistant for Pannasastra University's founder Dr. Kol Pheng, Penh shares his work discussing psychology, Cambodia and his work with Legion for Peace, whose main office is located in New York.
As a Buddhist monk, Penh begins each day in prayer and meditation, spends his afternoons teaching and his nights taking masters courses. He has two undergraduate degrees, one in Buddhist philosophy and one in internationalization. He lives in a community while in his home country, where the monks work building roads, schools or hospitals, providing shelter for orphans and monastic education, which is what Penh does.
"I wanted to come here to learn and study about American culture and education and compare between the two universities," Penh said. In fact, while he's here, Penh is writing a research paper on servant leadership comparing Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins Jr. and Pheng.
"They are both simple men, but they do extraordinary work. They both know peace through education lasts longer than peace through weapons," he said.
While in Troy, Penh said he has enjoyed the friendliness of the community and the quality of education.
"The system of education here is perfect. They have everything—equipment, materials—to make my study run smoothly" he said.
Once Penh returns to his country, he will complete his master's degree in the spring. He then plans to devote himself to teaching, working in poor rural areas and writing a book.