Dean of Religious Life
Dr. Varun Soni is the Dean of Religious Life at USC and the first Hindu to serve as the chief religious or spiritual leader of an American university. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the USC School of Religion and a University Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center on Public Diplomacy. Prior to USC, he spent four years teaching in the Law and Society Program at the UCSB.
Soni received his B.A. in Religion from Tufts University, where he also earned an Asian Studies minor and completed the Program in Peace and Justice Studies. He subsequently received his M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School and his M.A. in Religious Studies from UCSB. He went on to receive his J.D. from UCLA School of Law, where he also completed the Critical Race Studies Program and served as an editor for the Journal of Islamic and Near Eastern Law. He earned his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Cape Town, where his doctoral research focused on religion, technology and popular culture. As an undergraduate student, he spent a semester living in a Buddhist monastery in Bodh Gaya, India through Antioch University’s Buddhist Studies Program. As a graduate student, he spent months doing field research in India through UCSB's Center for Sikh and Punjab Studies.
Soni is a member of the State Bar of California, the American Academy of Religion, the National Association for College and University Chaplains, and the Association for College and University Religious Affairs. He is on the advisory board for the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement, Religion Dispatches, Los Angeles LGBT Center, Future50, CrossCurrents, Hindu American Seva Charities, Hindu American Foundation, New Vision Partners, Life Changing Internet, Interfaith Youth Core and the Parliament of the World Religions. Born in India and raised in southern California, he has family on five continents and they collectively represent every major religious tradition in the world.