October 6, 2013

Cornell to Open Study Abroad Program in India

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Cornell will be opening a study abroad program in Tamil Nadu, India in Spring 2014, the University announced last month.

The program will be run out of the Nilgiris Field Learning Center in a partnership with Keystone Foundation. The foundation works on developing eco-development initiatives for indigenous populations in Southern India, according to a University press release.

The Nilgiris Field Learning Center’s student body will consist of both Cornell and Indian students, according to Prof. Neema Kudva, city and regional planning, the faculty lead on the project.

Kudva also said students will be working with the indigenous population to find solutions to a variety of economic and environmental problems.

“We imagine the Nilgiris Field Learning Center as a place for transformative, engaged learning and research for the Cornell and Keystone communities where we will work together on questions of sustainable livelihoods and biodiversity conservation,” Kudva said.

The program will be taught by both Cornell staff and Keystone partners. Cornell staffers will come from a variety of departments, including city planning, natural resources and anthropology.

In addition to Kudva, Prof. Rebecca Stoltzfus, nutritional sciences, and Prof. Andrew Willford, anthropology, have signed up to teach in India for 10 weeks each. Prof. Steven Wolf, natural resources, will also be participating, Kudva said.

Kudva said the program’s goal is not only to have many disciplines represented by faculty, but to also have diversity represented in its students. “There will be a variety of disciplines in the program. … We want a dynamic group of people to participate, so as research needs emerge, the program can respond accordingly,” Kudva said.

“We live in a world with many problems. … We can’t just take a uni-disciplinary approach in environments where there are simultaneously plantation economies, small cities and endangered species.”

The semester-long program will be worth 12 to 15 credits — six credits for independent studies and three credits each for anthropology, nutritional sciences and city and regional planning courses, according to Kudva.

She added that there will also be plans for Tamil language study, as Tamil is the primary language of the region. Additionally, Cornell students at the program must complete a one credit course in Fall 2013 that Kudva called “Topics of Planning,” a pre-departure course in which students will learn about the local area and what to expect from the program.

Cornell and Keystone plan to implement a variety of programs, including town and country planning, arts programs and green shops that would focus on local producers and exchanging ideas, according to Pratim Roy, director of Keystone Foundation.

Participating students will live in hostel-style housing that will be a 15-minute walk from the Keystone campus, according to the official brochure for the NFLC. There will also be a personal cook who will use local ingredients for meals.

The Nilgiris Field Learning Center will be the second Cornell-run international study abroad program after the Cornell Nepal Study Program, according to Kudva. Kudva said she hopes there will be around 20 combined students from India and Cornell in the next five to 10 years.

Kudva said she is aiming to have four to five Cornell students in the program next year. “The NFLC could be a transformative place for Cornell students and Indian students. … If you have a sense of adventure, join: you’ll be part of a great experiment,” Kudva said.

The project is being funded by a variety of benefactors, including the Atkinson Center for Sustainable Futures, the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, the vice provost of international affairs and the Institute for the Social Sciences.