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News Feed: Students at SAI

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.

So far, Thant says, the group has received positive feedback from both students who have traveled to the country, and from students who want to learn more. The group hopes to host several events on campus as part of its awareness campaign, including panels, speakers, and fun cultural events.

Questions? Email

    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.

    PhD Candidates, Department of History, GSAS
    Field of Study: Imperial history, British Empire, colonial South Asia
    Dissertation: Empire of Letters: An Intellectual History of the East India Company, 1772-1835
    Joshua is a John Clive Fellow as well as a Graduate Affiliate at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies. He received a BA in History from the University of Chicago. His dissertation explores the languages of knowledge and enlightenment in the ideologies of the Company and its critics.


    PhD Candidate, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, GSAS
    Field of study: Histories and cultures of Muslim societies
    Dissertation: Connecting South Asian Histories: Indo-Persian Folk Romances in Regional Historiography, 1650-1850
    Neelam’s research interests include tarikh (history) literature in South Asia from the 17th-19th centuries; akhlag (ethics) in literature; transnational intellectual networks and the social and cultural history of South Asia. Neelam studied advanced Urdu and Indo-Persian at the American Institute of Indian Studies, in Lucknow, India, and is also proficient in Arabic and French. Her thesis explores histories written in Indi-Persian over two centuries that marked major transformative political, economic, social and cultural changes in South Asia.


    PhD candidate, Department of History, GSAS
    Field of Study: Modern South Asian History
    Dissertation Title: The Grand Old Man: Dadabhai Naoroji and the Intellectual Foundations of
    Indian Self-Government
    Dinyar’s  dissertation is on the evolution of the political philosophy of Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917), a prominent early Indian nationalist leader and the first Indian elected to the British Parliament (in 1892). In 1906, Naoroji publicly declared swaraj or Indian self-government to be the goal of the Indian National Congress. Dinyar’s dissertation traces the development of this declaration through Naoroji’s early
    economic work, his engagement with semi-autonomous Indian princely states, and attempts to build alliances for Indian reform with British Liberals and socialists. He has just returned to Harvard after three years of archival research in India and the United Kingdom where he was supported by an IIE Fulbright-Nehru and Fulbright Hays DDRA fellowship.


    PhD Candidate, Department of History, GSAS
    Field of study: International and diplomatic history; insurgency and intervention; international institutions, Cold War US foreign policy; modern South Asia; and modern Southern Africa.
    Dissertation: Stillborn States: Failed Nationalism in Nagaland and South West Africa, 1960-1966
    Lydia studies the interplay between nationalism and internationalism, activism and politics, claim and counter-claim in the emergence of post-colonial nation-states. She looks at sovereign demands that failed – what she call Stillborn States – during the high decolonization of the early 1960s.  I look at literal geographic peripheries – places like Nagaland in India’s Northeast or the contested mandate of South West Africa (independent Namibia as of 1990). In other incarnations, She has been a nuclear policy and scenario researcher for the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (New Delhi) and the Hertog Global Strategy Initiative (New York City).  She was also  a professional ballet dancer, and a founding director of the Columbia Ballet Collaborative and Delhi Dance Theater. She received a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and a master’s degree from Harvard University.

      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.

      GHP 298:  Field Trip to India

      January 5-23, 2015
      Richard A. Cash, MD, MPH

      The purpose of this course is to expose public health students and practitioners to the issue of Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and to examine the potential policy and programmatic responses that can stem the rising trend of NCDs in LMICs, where most of the global NCD related morbidity, mortality and disability currently occurs. The course includes field visits to various institutions that are dealing with NCDs in India, comprising both governmental and non-governmental organizations as well as community and institution-based health organizations.  In addition, participants also have a field visit to community-based NCD project sites to learn about innovative implementation research strategies to address NCDs.  Faculty is comprised of PHFI, GOI, WHO, NGO’s, World Bank and others.

      “Non-Communicable Disease Prevention and Control”

      Course at the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), Delhi

      Click for full schedule and details (PDF).


      GHP 540 Field Trip to Bangladesh

      January 5 – 23, 2015
      Focus on Climate Change
      On Site Course Leader:  M. Omar Rahman, MD,MPH,DSc, Harvard University

      Students will have the opportunity to study public health issues at three different institutions: Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB), the James P Grant School of Public Health (JPGSPH) at BRAC University, and the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research (ICDDR,B). All these institutions have had an excellent record of innovative, cutting edge public health research and practice. BRAC is the world’s largest NGO (and ranked #1) and the ICDDR,B is one of the premier research institutions in the developing world renowned for its demographic surveillance system in Matlab and applied research including the development of ORT.

      In Bangladesh there will also be a comprehensive orientation to introduce students to health and development in the Bangladesh context conducted by Professor Omar Rahman, former Associate Professor of Epidemiology at HSPH and currently Vice Chancellor and Dean of the School of Public Health at Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB). Based at IUB, the International Centre for Climate Change and Development’s (ICCCD) aim is to develop a world-class institution that is closely related to locate experience, knowledge, and research in one of the countries that is most affected by climate change.

      ICCCD has had approximately 60 students from a wide range of countries and institutions including the US, UK, France, Sweden, and Germany. ICCCD has developed a web portal (The Communications and Knowledge Management Programme) for research on climate change in Bangladesh, with frequent updates including blogs and articles. The website has a large network of alumni from courses and programs, coordinates the Asia Pacific Forum (L&D) hosted on Asia Pacific Adaptation Network, and publishes articles, policy briefs, and papers.

      The Centre has designed and established a field program in the south of Bangladesh through which researchers and interested individuals can visit climate change affected sites. They can learn about how local communities are trying to adapt to the detrimental changes brought on by climate change. The impacts of climate change are varied and as a result affect people’s livelihoods and health, amongst other things.

      Click for more details.

        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.

        Divya Sooryakumar, Student Services Intern

        Divya a Ed. M Candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in the International Education Policy program. She recently returned from three years in Chandigarh, India where she was working with the non-profit organization, Chhoti Si Asha ( as an Indicorps fellow.  She worked on a women’s empowerment/employment program, the Stitch-a-Living Program and a children’s educational project.Through the Stitch-a-Living Program, unprivileged women in a slum community are trained to make handbags and bags for events (shameless promotion: Chhoti Si Asha makes affordable custom designs for any event!)

        She graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in Economics and International Studies. During college, Divya fostered her interest in human rights and international development through university organizations such as the Northwestern University Conference on Human Rights and the Global Engagement Summit. Additionally, She spent two consecutive summers working with microfinance organizations in India and Uganda.


        Mehjabeen Zameer, Pakistan Program Intern

        Mehjabeen, who grew up in Karachi and received her Bachelors degree in Computer Science at the prestigious Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), thought she would spend her career as a scientist, only to discover that it wasn’t her calling and that she was interested in making a tangible impact in her country.  She joined Teach For Pakistan (TFP), an internationally recognized, highly selective fellowship of recent college graduates teaching in under-resourced communities. Mehjabeen served as a math teacher for 7th and 8th graders in Karachi, where she taught 220 female students on a daily basis and challenged age-old conservative beliefs about girls’ education.

        In addition to her significant workload as a teacher, Mehjabeen worked within the community to engage other teachers and parents in their children’s education and with her TFP colleagues, created an apprenticeship program for her students in partnership with IBM. During this time, Mehjabeen was selected for The Atlantic Council’s Emerging Leaders of Pakistan Fellowship for which she was invited to the US to meet policymakers, entrepreneurs, grassroots activists and Diaspora communities. She also presented on “The State of Education in Pakistan” at a public event in Washington DC attended by State Department, UN and World Bank officials.  After completing her term with TFP, Mehjabeen joined The Citizens Foundation (TCF) –   the largest non-profit working in the education sector in Pakistan with 1,000 school units catering to 145,000 students. Mehjabeen worked to improve the quality of principals in TCF schools by making the existing mechanism for principal recruitment, training and evaluation more effective.

        Mehjabeen is a Fulbright Scholar and is pursuing a Master’s in International Education Policy at Harvard Graduate School of Education. On her return to Pakistan, she wishes to serve as an advocate for educational equity at the policy level, either through a think tank or as a civil servant in the Ministry of Education in Pakistan.

          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!