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News Category: News

Innovation and immersion overseas

This article originally appeared in the Harvard Gazette.

Grants help faculty shape study-abroad opportunities


By Alvin Powell, Harvard Staff Writer

New Delhi, Bangalore, Paris, Tblisi, Vienna, Dakar, Freiburg.

Harvard summer students will have the option of classes on three continents through six new summer-abroad programs being developed and implemented by Harvard faculty, thanks to grants from a fund designed to expand study-abroad opportunities and encourage innovation in those experiences.

“They’ll get immersion in a completely different context, exposure to a different society,” said Tarun Khanna, the Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at Harvard Business School, director of Harvard’s South Asia Institute, and the architect of a summer study-abroad class that places students in Indian nonprofits that are leveraging the promise of mobile phone technology. “I believe the immersion into a combination of library readings and real-world settings will be very instructive.”

The grants were awarded from the President’s Innovation Fund for International Experiences (PIFIE), which was created to provide seed funding to faculty members to develop academic experiences abroad for Harvard undergraduates. The fund was created as part of David Rockefeller’s donation to support student international experiences, and seeks to encourage participation by faculty members at the graduate schools as well as Harvard College.

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    Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity Exhibition on display at Harvard

    Over fifty Harvard professors, students, administrative staff, and medical practitioners made the pilgrimage to Allahabad, India, to the Kumbh Mela site in 2013, to analyze issues that emerge in large-scale human gatherings. The Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity book and exhibition consolidate research findings and serve as an example of interdisciplinary research conducted at Harvard.

    Following the book launch at the Loeb House in April, the exhibition is now on dispay in CGIS Knafel, 1737 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA until the end of July. Open to the public Monday-Thursday 7am-9pm; Fridays 7am-7pm.



      Lessons from and for Nepal

      Anuraj Jha, left, Master’s student at Harvard Kennedy School, introduces the second panel on equity in humanitarian response

      By Abhishek RahmanMDiv Candidate, Harvard Divinity School; SAI Student Coordinator

      As part of the Harvard For Nepal initiative, SAI hosted a panel discussion with Students For Nepal on May 14, 2015, “Consequences and Responses: Lessons from and for Nepal” with faculty from Harvard, Tufts, MIT, and Brown, who shared lessons and recommendations on a wide variety of topics related to Nepal’s recovery.

      Xeno Acharya, a PhD student at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and member of Students For Nepal, began the event with a moment of silence to honor and remember the families and community members who lost their lives. The first panel focused on Public Health, Water and Sanitation, and Rebuilding of Places and Heritage Sites,” and was comprised of Jarrod Goentzel, Director, MIT Humanitarian Response Lab; Michael Hooper, Associate Professor of Urban Planning, Harvard’s Graduate School of Design; Daniele Lantagne, Usen Family Career Development Professor, Tufts University; and Atul Pokharel, Postdoctoral Fellow in International Studies, Brown University.

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        HBS seeks Research Associate with interest in Indian politics and education

        Job description:

        The Research Associate (RA) position reports directly to faculty supervisors. Ideal RA candidates will be comfortable in an environment that requires a high level of independence, intellectual curiosity and the ability to use discretionary judgment. Under the general direction of Faculty member(s), RAs will develop, design, and conduct research projects; develop interview structures, questions and conduct interviews; gather, analyze, edit, and draft all forms of academic writing; produce original written materials; conduct background research, draft new cases, and update existing cases or materials for classroom use; use knowledge of qualitative research methodologies to further research findings; design new databases, surveys and experiments.

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          Head Teaching Fellow needed for Societies of the World 47: Contemporary South Asia

          Head Teaching Fellow 

          Head Teaching Fellow needed for Societies of the World 47: Contemporary South Asia: Entrepreneurial Solutions to Intractable Social and Economic Problems. This is a University-wide platform course jointly offered with GSAS, HBS, HGSE, HKS, HLS, and HSPH, and coordinated by Prof Tarun Khanna (HBS) and co-taught by Rahul Mehrotra (GSD), as well as two other Harvard faculty. The course focuses on several categories of social and economic problems faced by the countries of South Asia, with specific focus on the realms of Education, Health, Financial Inclusion, and Urbanization. The goal is to understand ways in which entrepreneurial action can effectively tackle major socioeconomic problems in South Asia, by combining knowledge of historical causes, qualitative and quantitative evidence, and context-specific knowledge of the commonalities and differences across South Asian countries.

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            Contribute to SAI’s summer blog!

            SAI welcomes submissions for its blog from Harvard students, faculty, alumni, and affiliates on an array of topics pertaining to South Asia. Submissions that were previously published elsewhere are welcome.

            Examples of posts can include: student travel adventures in South Asia, an update on an organization you are working in South Asia, commentary on current events, discussions about your research project, news about student organizations, opinion pieces, and more. Photo collections are welcome!

            As SAI’s work is cross-school and interdisciplinary, we especially look for posts related to our research areas: global health, humanities and art, religion, urbanism, social enterprise, education, gender issues, science, and more.

            Have an idea for a topic? Interested in contributing? Email Meghan Smith, SAI Communications Coordinator,

              Exploring identity through South Asian poetry

              By Sunayana Kachroo, poet participant

              South Asia is a region of diversity with a peculiar synthetic cultural unity.  Rich in history, languages, literature and philosophy, the region has explored the signature of humanity in man through religion, art, monuments, food, music, dance, and human conduct.  So, what is the identity of a person belonging to South Asia but living far away from the native land?  On May 10, 2015, thirty South Asian poets explored “Identity” at the Nineteenth India Poetry Reading session hosted by the South Asian Poets of New England, the South Asia Institute, and the Department of South Asian Studies of Harvard University.

              The meeting began with the recalling of the tragic events in Nepal, where thousands perished through the massive earthquake in the Himalayas.  The young land on the foot hills of the great mountain range is still forming, and the earthquake was a reminder that the earth is still moving underneath.  Mr. Janmejay Shishupal read a poem especially composed for Nepal. Dr Shiva Gautam from the Medical School narrated the events from Nepal.  Ms. Meena Hewett of SAI provided information about how people can support the Nepal Research and Reconstruction Fund.  All joined in a one minute silence tribute to the deceased.

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                Update from the Harvard Alumni Group in Nepal

                On May 20, 2015, the Harvard Alumni Group in Nepal held its monthly meeting in Kathmandu. The members shared their stories of involvement in rescue and relief operations, and shared lessons and recommendations learned during the earthquakes.

                Summary of these recommendations are as follows:

                Government coordination:
                Immediately after the tremor, state machinery, notably the police and other security personal, had already started their engagement in rescue operations. However, coordination was the major problem. In the initial stage, the civilian part of the government was not visible. There was a gap in information-flow regarding the damage, loss, priority, processes, etc, and no one was giving any proper response.

                Participants at the meeting praised the critical role of all security officials (army and police) played in rescue efforts. Through this response, they were able to re-establish their credibility with the people.  The civil part of the government’s existence has been questioned. There was a coordination gap between the civilian and security part of the government. The existing legislative and institutional environment to respond to disasters is insufficient and incomplete. The law needs to be totally reviewed to face the newer challenges. A separate entity with enough mandate, scope, resources and accountability is urgently needed to deal with the national disaster in an integrated way.

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                  Research spotlight: Water and poverty in urban slums

                  Sharmila Murthy, Heather Arney, and Ramnath Subbaraman

                  This is the first article in a series highlighting SAI’s ongoing research projects that were featured at SAI’s Annual Symposium ‘South Asia: Local Solutions with Global Impact‘ in April.

                  By Divya S. SooryakumarInternational Education Policy, Ed.M Candidate, Harvard Graduate School of Education 

                  Approximately 768 million people in the world lack access to safe water sources, a problem addressed during a panel at the Harvard South Asia Institute’s Annual Symposium on April 17, 2015. Water and Poverty in Urban Slums focused on the research being undertaken by SAI, looking at the intersection of access to water and urban slum communities.

                  In an attempt to better understand the nature of the problem, each of the panelists focused on a different aspect of water access and urban slum communities. Liza Weinstein, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Northeastern University, kicked off the conversation by sharing her research on slum communities in Mumbai. All too often, slums are understood as just a housing problem. In reality, they are housing, economic, sanitation, and rights-based problems as well. Further complicating the dialogue is the diversity of slum communities across the world. There is a deep-seeded history in the social and political landscapes of these communities, that greatly affects sanitation and access to water.

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                    Ben Siegel wins Sardar Patel Award

                    Congrats to Ben Siegel, former SAI Graduate Student Associatewhose dissertation “Independent India of Plenty: Food, Hunger, and Nation-Building in Modern India” won the 2014 Sardar Patel Award for “the best doctoral dissertation on any aspect of modern India – social sciences, humanities, education and fine arts.”

                    Established in 1999, the Sardar Patel award is annually conferred by the Center for India and South Asia at UCLA. Ben is currently an Assistant Professor of History at Boston University.