Patrick Dowd Alumni Spotlight

Patrick earned his BA from the Department of English and Comparative Literature at UNC in 2010. He now works for the Tibet Center at the University of Virginia, the leading Tibetan studies program in the country, where he does cultural documentation and translation work for the center. In the fall, he will pursue a PhD in Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. Through his studies at UNC Patrick encountered different people, ideas, and ways of life. One of his formative undergraduate experiences was studying abroad in India, which complemented the Asian Studies courses he had taken at UNC, like Dr. Inger Brodey’s Cross-Currents in East-West Literature course. While India he researched Dalit converts to Buddhism, and when he returned from India, he wrote his senior thesis on literary representations of the India/Pakistan partition. His travel, research, and coursework sparked an interest in Asia which guided his post-graduation career.


After graduating, through the Princeton in Asia program he went to Northern Thailand, where he worked for a Burmese human rights organization. In 2012, he received a Fulbright to return to India, where he studied the Tibetan language and Buddhist philosophy with the Tibetan exile community in the Himalayas. While in India, he noticed a lack of appropriate Tibetan language curriculum and pedagogy, which inspired him to earn an MA from the University of Pennsylvania, where he focused on indigenous education and language revitalization, particularly in Tibet and the Himalayas.


A grant from the Phillips Ambassadors Program and the Khyentse Foundation enabled him to direct the writing, illustration and publication of a culturally relevant, Ladakhi-centric children’s book in the local Tibetic language. The project is the first children’s book written in vernacular Ladakhi while still maintaining the grammar and spelling of literary Tibetan, despite the more than 250,000 people who live in the Ladakh region of India. The book, which is illustrated by local artists, includes twelve original stories set in the region and feature Ladakhi characters. Patrick’s goal is to oversee similar culturally relevant projects support Tibetic languages across the Tibetan plateau and Tibetic-speaking Himalayas.


Patrick choose UNC because of its reputation and affordability as a public institution. He still fondly remembers his mentors John McGowan, Inger Brodey, Joe Viscomi, and Eric Downing. One of his favorite memories from UNC was Reid Barbour’s John Milton class; he remembers his final exam, during which Dr. Barbour cancelled the exam and brought a cake to celebrate Milton’s birthday.


For students interested in a career path similar to Patrick’s, he recommends taking things one step at a time, following your passions, and finding funding opportunities to support your interests. He recommends that students try new things while they have the opportunity to do so and to do something they’re scared of. One of his regrets is not studying abroad sooner because that experience exposed him to some of his intellectual passions and would have influenced the courses he took as an undergraduate. Patrick emphasizes that UNC has fantastic resources and students should use those resources to follow their passions. sdfsdf 

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