India: Sustainable Development and Social Change

Key Features

"During the SIT program, we had the opportunity to meet and discuss issues of international development with officials from the Indian federal government, to visit a multitude of NGOs across the subcontinent working in fields ranging from rural healthcare to sustainable energy to gender inequality, and to undertake independent study. The experiences I had conversing with NGO leaders, rural hospital employees, civilians, and SIT staff have helped me establish a stronger understanding of the collaborative efforts involved in sustainable development and have helped shape my ambitions and career goals. I will never forget the staff's constant support and encouragement."

—Nicky Mehtani, Rice University

SIT students meeting with a Resource Specialist in Jodhpur

India is the world's largest democracy with a rapidly growing economy, vibrant IT industry and service sector, and burgeoning middle class, and it is poised to become an influential world power. Despite its impressive economic growth, social hierarchy, inequity, and poverty remain enormous challenges for this country of more than one billion people.

Live and study in Jaipur and witness the daily dichotomy of traditional and modern characterizing much of contemporary India.
In Jaipur, students begin thematic coursework, language study, and the Field Methods and Ethics course while enjoying access to academics, professional associations, and grassroots organizers working in areas such as community development, natural resource management, and poverty alleviation through state-led social security provisions and livelihood development.

Jaipur presents itself as a wealthy and regal city containing clean, stately, tree-lined streets; traditional and contemporary architecture; heritage palaces and forts; five-star hotels; and a thriving tourism industry. However, the largely rural and agricultural state of Rajasthan is among the underdeveloped regions in India, and Jaipur, the state's capital city, reflects this reality. Rural and urban youth throughout the region struggle with problems ranging from life-threatening droughts to gaining admission to prestigious universities. Organizations supported by concerned urban citizens are seeking innovative ways to address issues of poverty, social justice, and sustainable development in Rajasthan's rural areas as well as among the urban poor.

Gain direct exposure to some of the most inspired and important Indian experts working in the development and social change arenas.
The program’s lecturers include policymakers and planners, academicians, development practitioners, NGO workers, researchers, Gandhi scholars, journalists, social workers, feminists, and development and social change activists.

Study Hindi language.
Students receive daily language instruction in Hindi in both large- and small-group formats. Students are encouraged to continue working on their language skills outside the classroom, especially with their homestay families, during excursions, and while completing the NGO workshop. Students with advanced Hindi skills may opt for tutoring.

Acquire research and field study skills.
Through the program's course on the ethics and methods of field research, students learn appropriate methodologies that prepare them to undertake primary research on critical issues and topics relating to social and political change and development. Students acquire research skills and approaches that are used for the Independent Study Project such as:

  • Cross-cultural adaptation and skill building
  • Project selection and refinement
  • Appropriate fieldwork methodologies
  • Field study ethics and the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy
  • Developing skills in observation and interviewing
  • Gathering, organizing, and communicating data
  • Maintaining a work journal
  • Networking and resource mobilization

Assigned papers provide an opportunity for students to test the tools introduced during the course while providing occasions for discussions on ethics and intercultural readings. Throughout the Field Methods and Ethics course, students work to develop their research topics for the Independent Study Project, and advance their initial ideas, assumptions, and drafts in close consultation with the program’s academic director.

Independent Study Project
Students spend the final four weeks of the program engaged in an Independent Study Project (ISP) conducted in Rajasthan or in another approved location in India. The ISP provides each student with an opportunity to pursue original research on a situation or topic of particular interest to them. Sample topic areas for the ISP include:

  • The role of women in traditional seed supply systems
  • Information technology and social change
  • Communism in Kerala and its impact on human development measures
  • Gandhi and the Khadi industry in contemporary India
  • Dams, mining, and tribal displacement and conflict
  • Food security and the public distribution system
  • Impacts of globalization on traditional art and artisans in northern India
  • Climate change, water, and biodiversity conservation
  • Local governance and women’s empowerment
  • Indian wildlife conservation and international NGO involvement
  • The Right to Information Act and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme
  • Primary education: a colonial legacy
  • Microfinance, fair trade, and women's empowerment

Students have conducted ISPs in the states of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, New Delhi, West Bengal, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh. NGOs often play a critical role in facilitating ISPs.

Costs Dates

Credits: 16

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: Jaipur

Language Study: Hindi

Prerequisites: None


View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Fall 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Fall 2012 Evaluations (PDF)

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