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News Category: News

Fall Webinars: Disaster Management

Join the South Asia Institute for three interactive webinar events with Harvard University Fellows on Disaster Management and Emergency Response.


South Asia is particularly vulnerable to disasters, from terrorist attacks, to floodings, to earthquakes that can affect large populations. In order to address these humanitarian crises, the fundamentals of mass casualty management are critical.These interactive webinars will highlight the work being done to systematically improve the response to emergencies in urban settings.

How to participate:

PREPARE: Visit SAI’s website to find articles and readings to prepare for the webinars.
WATCH: One the day of the webinar, watch live on SAI’s website
INTERACT: Tweet your questions and join the conversation on Facebook

Twitter: @HarvardSAI, #SAIWebinar
Facebook: Harvard SAI

Wednesday, October 1
Shawn D’Andrea, MDInstructor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Fellow, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative
This seminar will teach incident command, which is a simple organizational structure that allows a coordinated thoughtful response when the needs of the crisis overwhelm the resources.
8:30 AM in Cambridge, 5:30 PM in Pakistan, 6 PM in India, 6:30 PM in Sri Lanka & Bangladesh

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    College students launch Harvard Students for Myanmar

    What do you know about Myanmar?

    A group of Harvard College students hopes to spark dialogues about a country that seems mysterious to many. The newly formed Harvard Students for Myanmar is a group of undergraduates who are from Burma, have an academic interest in the country, have traveled there, or who may not have any affiliation with the country at all.

    With a mission of ‘Talk, Teach, Talent,’ The group hopes to educate the Harvard community about Burma, while also encouraging more Harvard students to intern and work in the country.

    The group’s first goal will be to launch a social media campaign. By encouraging students to use the hashtag #askmeaboutmyanmar on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the group hopes to shed a different light on a country that is frequently misunderstood, according to founder Kyi Zar Thant, Harvard College ’15.

    “Most cultural and political projects in the US [focused on Burma] are very much pessimistic,” Thant says, due in part to traditional media having a negative tone in how they report on the country. “We want to be an un-biased middle ground,” Thant says.

    Rather than drawing on traditional news sources to teach the Harvard community about Myanmar, the group hopes to encourage discussion about the country with no filter or bias, by sharing unedited blog posts from people who have experienced the country.

    The group hopes that instead of turning to news reports on Myanmar, interested students will start a dialogue from someone who has been there. The group will reach out to students, Harvard affiliates, local experts, and even celebrities who have been to the country, and ask them to contribute to the blog, which would not be edited. Each week, a post will be published and shared widely using the hashtag #askmeaboutmyanmar.

    The new group, which is in the process of being registered under the Office of Student Life, is not a cultural or political group, in that it is not promoting a specific cause or culture. The goal is to just get people talking about a country that is not well understood.

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      Meet our Graduate Student Associates

      Meet our Graduate Student Associates, 2014-2015

      Every year, SAI supports Graduate Student Associates from across the different schools at Harvard whose research focuses on South Asia. The goal of the SAI Graduate Student Associate program is to establish a community of peers to support original and independent research in South Asia. The GSA program is headed by Parimal Patil, Professor of Religion and Indian Philosophy, and Chair of the Department of South Asian Studies, and SAI steering committee member. GSAs participate in monthly workshops in which they present their thesis research to one another. In the spring, GSAs organize an end of year conference to showcase their research.


      Ed.D. Candidate, Harvard Graduate School of Education
      Field of Study: Education, Religion and Nationalism
      Dissertation: Religious Nationalism and History Education in Pakistan
      Mariam’s thesis examines identity politics and religious nationalism fostered through the Pakistani education system. She has two Masters degrees, also from Harvard, in International Education Policy and Education Policy and Management, and has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Rice University.  Mariam founded the Harvard Pakistan Student Group in 2009 with a small community of less than 20 people. Three years later and with over 600 members, HPSG became the first university‐wide student organization recognized by Harvard University.

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        Using cell phones to change society

        Cell phones are no longer just a tool of communication – they are improving the lives of billions of people, especially in developing countries. The potential of mobile technology to change society was examined in an Exploratory Seminar titled ‘Using Cellphones to Change Societies hosted by SAI and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study on September 4 and 5, 2014.

        Led by Tarun Khanna, Director of SAI, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School, and JP Onnela, Assistant Professor of Biostatistics, Harvard School of Public Health, the workshop assembled a diverse group of academics, medical practitioners, business executives and leading researchers to discuss the potential of the technology to enable economic and social mobility, particularly in the areas of health, banking, and education. The discussions helped to lay the groundwork for future interdisciplinary research and connections.

        Each of the four sessions included presentations by experts, followed by a discussion. In the first session, participants discussed how mobile technology can be used in interdisciplinary interventions. There are many myths about technology, and it is important to understand both the positive and negative effects. Many companies like Telenor are using big data to improve credit and loans, for example. Mobile money has exciting potential in Afghanistan and other emerging markets, and mobile phones can help rural workers get paid. The field of mHealth was also explored, which is revolutionizing health care worldwide.

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          January public health courses in India and Bangladesh

          The Harvard School of Public Health will be offering two courses for students to travel to South Asia in January.

          Deadline to apply: Friday, September 19, 11:59 PM

          Application available via the GHP Field Trip iSite.

          Note: These courses are open to all Harvard students, although HSPH students are given priority.Once their application is submitted, applicants will have the opportunity to apply for funding through a SAI Winter Grant.

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            SAI Student Coordinators, 2014-2015

            SAI is excited to welcome three new students to serve as student coordinators for the 2014-2015 academic year. Interns play a vital role in SAI’s operations, including helping with SAI’s Grant Program, assisting with digital outreach efforts, organizing SAI programs in the region, and much more.

            SAI Student Coordinators, 2014-2015

            Abhishek Raman, Communications and Outreach Intern

            A native of New Delhi, India, Abhishek is a Master of Divinity candidate with a focus on Hinduism at Harvard Divinity School. After graduating from Clark University with a double major in Government & International Relations and Sociology, Abhishek initially worked at Harvard’s Pluralism Project on the Case Study Initiative before moving to Chicago to work at Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC). At IFYC, Abhishek managed interfaith student leadership programs, developed curricula on interfaith community organizing, coordinated federally-funded State Department grants to promote interfaith service projects globally, and implemented strategy consulting engagements with institutions of higher education in the United States.

            In 2013, Abhishek was selected by the World Economic Forum as a Global Shaper, a group of leaders under the age of 30 charged with catalyzing positive social change in their respective communities. He serves as a Young Professional Ambassador of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and regularly consults with political organizations and candidates on developing faith-based partnerships. Abhishek is the quintessential political news junkie and spends his free time rooting for the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots.

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              Chaat Party welcomes back students

              Tarun Khanna, Director of SAI, HBS, speaks to attendees

              On Monday, September 8, SAI held its annual Welcome Back Chaat party to celebrate the start of the school year. Over 200 students, faculty and Harvard affiliates enjoyed delicious South Asian food, and learned more about SAI’s internship and funding opportunities.

              Leaders from various South Asia-related student groups spoke about their organizations, including:

              Erum Sattar, President. Harvard Pakistan Student Group

              The Harvard Pakistan Student Group (HPSG) was been founded with the aim of creating a vibrant and productive community, leveraging our strength across all Harvard schools. We hope to create opportunities for students across Harvard with an affiliation with Pakistan to connect on activities and topics of interest, to stimulate thought-leadership and active engagement on topics related to Pakistan with domestic and global implications, realizing the strength of the entire Harvard community.

              Saahil Siddoo, Co-President, Harvard South Asian Association

              Since 1986, the organization has brought the Harvard community closer to South Asia and its Diaspora through academic, political, social, outreach and cultural initiatives. With over 300 members spanning myriad ethnicities, religions, and interests, the South Asian Association (SAA) is one of the largest and most active student groups on campus, putting on over 100 different events each year to celebrate and foster awareness of South Asia.

              Kanika Arora, Co-President, Harvard India Student Group

              The Harvard India Student Group (HISG) was established in 2011 as one of the first university-wide student groups (USG) under Harvard University. In its fourth year of existence, HISG continues to meet its mandate of providing a platform across 13 Harvard schools for communication and collaboration between students, faculty and alumni who share an interest in topics related to India.

              Visit SAI’s Facebook page for photos!


                Chennai celebrates Harvard Day

                Pianist Anil Srinivasan

                Harvard University, established in 1636, celebrated its 378th anniversary on September 8th, 2014. Coincidentally, Chennai (formerly called Madras) in Tamil Nadu, India, celebrated its 350th anniversary on the same day with week-long festivities. In partnership the Harvard South Asia Institute (SAI), the Harvard Club of Chennai celebrated the historic event in a unique gathering that included a cartoonist, pianist, and a quiz about famous Harvard quotes.

                Although light-hearted, the event skillfully brought out threads of commonality between the iconic institution of Harvard, the oldest institute of higher education in the United States, and the historic city of Chennai, the oldest modern city of India. Through art and music, the event displayed how both have the potential to catalyze social change.

                The event was held at The Forum, a leading art gallery in Chennai where cartoonist Biswajit Balasubramanian and pianist Anil Srinivasan joined forces to produce a music-and-cartoon event depicting the humorous side of the often serious business of life in Chennai. Also on exhibition were a collection of over 100 Chennai-themed cartoons drawn by Biswajit over the years. Anil Srinivasan is a classical pianist, best known for his collaborative work with Carnatic vocalist Sikkil Gurucharan.

                • It might be said now that I have the best of both worlds. A Harvard education and a Yale degree.” - John F. Kennedy
                • Harvard makes mistakes too, you know. Kissinger taught there.” - Woody Allen
                • A Harvard Medical School study has determined that rectal thermometers are still the best way to tell a baby’s temperature. Plus, it really teaches the baby who’s boss.” - Tina Fey
                • Harvard takes perfectly good plums as students, and turns them into prunes.” - Frank Lloyd Wright

                The audience participated enthusiastically, and the quiz set the mood for the second half of the program. Anil played music by various veterans of Tamil music while Biswajit showed slides of his cartoons-in-progress. Anil played well-known pieces by famous musicians of Tamil Nadu like M.S. Subbulakshmi, Illiaraaja, A.R. Rahman while humorous caricatures were displayed.

                The event was organized by Kapil Vishwanathan and Sridevi Raghavan of the Harvard Club of Chennai, with Payal Narain of the Harvard South Asia Institute.

                  Fall South Asia Courses

                  Still looking for fall courses? Here are several to consider:

                  Islamic Civilizations 178: Muslim Societies in South Asia: Religion, Culture, and Identity

                  Ali S. Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures; Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program

                  For Undergraduates and Graduates
                  Half course (fall term). Th., 1-3 pm

                  South Asia is home to the largest concentration of Muslims in the world. This course surveys the development of Muslim communities in the region focusing on an exploration of their identities in diverse contexts. Issues and themes will be considered within religious and socio-political contexts, as well as the broader framework of South Asian cultures as expressed in language, literature, and the arts. The course also examines various ways in which the terms “Islamic” and “Muslim” are understood in pre-modern and modern discourses as well as the lived experiences of being Muslim in contemporary India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.


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                    ‘Contextual Intelligence’ by Tarun Khanna

                    Contextual Intelligence

                    By Tarun KhannaDirector of SAI and Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School

                    Harvard Business Review, September 2014

                    Photography: Studio Tomás Saraceno, 2013

                    Whether as managers or as academics, we study business to extract learning, formalize it, and apply it to puzzles we wish to solve. That’s why we go to business school, why we write case studies and develop analytic frameworks, why we read HBR. I believe deeply in the importance of that work: I’ve spent my career studying business as it is practiced in varied global settings.

                    But I’ve come to a conclusion that may surprise you: Trying to apply management practices uniformly across geographies is a fool’s errand, much as we’d like to think otherwise. To be sure, plenty of aspirations enjoy wide if not universal acceptance. Most entrepreneurs and managers agree, for example, that creating value and motivating talent are at the heart of what they do. But once you drill below the homilies, differences quickly emerge over what constitutes value and how to motivate people. That’s because conditions differ enormously from place to place, in ways that aren’t easy to codify—conditions not just of economic development but of institutional character, physical geography, educational norms, language, and culture. Students of management once thought that best manufacturing practices (to take one example) were sufficiently established that processes merely needed tweaking to fit local conditions. More often, it turns out, they need radical reworking—not because the technology is wrong but because everything surrounding the technology changes how it will work.

                    It’s not that we’re ignoring the problem—not at all. Business schools increasingly offer opportunities for students and managers to study practices abroad. At Harvard Business School, where I teach, international research is essential to our mission, and we now send first-year MBA students out into the world to briefly experience the challenges local businesses face. Nonetheless, I continually find that people overestimate what they know about how to succeed in other countries.

                    Read the full article at