Michael D. Smith

Himalaya Instructor, Study Abroad Faculty

Michael grew up in Central Louisiana, where he spent most of his free time reading or playing in the woods, and earned his Eagle Scout rank. After graduating high school from the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts, he worked for two summers at Philmont Boy Scout Ranch in New Mexico as a backcountry trekking guide, which honed his wanderlust, outdoor skills, and sense of adventure.

He majored in Religious Studies and Environmental Policy Studies at Rice University in Houston, with a focus on Buddhist texts, language acquisition, and environmental activism. He joined the College Year in Nepal Program, conducting research on oral histories about Tibetan Buddhist lamas in Solu-Khumbu (Everest Region), and then coordinated the 6-week Passage International Summer Study Abroad program in Nepal and Tibet each summer from 2004-2007.

In 2006, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to further language studies and research syntheses in diverse Buddhist communities in Nepal, and lived in a Buddhist monastery teaching English and participating in the daily life of the monks. He translated a Tibetan text on Buddhist festivals, which was published in Nepal.

Following Katrina’s devastation, he returned to New Orleans, renovating flooded houses and later completing dual Masters in International Social Work and Public Health from Tulane University in 2010. He organized the New Orleans Food Co-op, the only community-owned grocer in Louisiana, as President for 3 years until the store’s opening, raising over $1M and attracting over 1000 member-owners.

Since 2011, Michael has coordinated and taught summer study abroad in north India for Tulane University, Loyola University New Orleans, and Centenary College (Shreveport, LA). He helped organize His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s May 2013 visit to New Orleans, which he considers his greatest honor and achievement.

He co-founded Woven Earth, a non-profit that organizes international trainings in permaculture and natural building, and has co-facilitated three permaculture and two Earthbag (Super-Adobe) trainings in Nepal. In the Fall of 2016 he taught Essentials of Buddhism at the Sowa Rigpa International College in Kathmandu.

In 2015 Michael married his long-time love in a traditional Himalayan Buddhist ceremony, and now resides in Kathmandu with his wife and her family, native to Dolpo, Nepal.