Sustainable Development and Social Change

Explore India’s socioeconomic development and the new urgency in rethinking development to shape a sustainable global future.

At a Glance





Language of Study


Courses taught in



Sep 4 – Dec 17

Program Countries


Program Excursion Countries


Program Base


Critical Global Issue of Study

Climate & Environment

Climate & Environment Icon

Development & Inequality

Development & Inequality Icon


Why study development in India?

The world’s largest democracy, India, is poised to become a major global power, yet poverty, social inequality, and barriers to economic opportunity remain key challenges in this nation of more than 1 billion people. Discover the dichotomies of tradition and modernity, wealth and poverty while living in Jaipur, the tree-lined capital of India’s Rajasthan state and one of India’s most populous cities. While Jaipur evokes the regality of the royal family that once ruled it, with its heritage palaces and five-star hotels, the largely rural state of Rajasthan is among the least developed regions of India. Venture beyond the city to explore the critical issues facing India today and visit non-governmental organizations, research institutes, and villages. Along the way, meet with some of the most inspired and important Indian experts working in development and social change. You’ll develop a foundational knowledge of India’s past, present, and future development paradigms and acquire field study and research skills to complete an independent project or an internship at a development organization.


  • Learn Hindi and local customs while living with an Indian family in Jaipur.
  • Meet with academics, social-change experts, NGOs and grassroots organizers.
  • Explore prosperity and poverty across India’s urban and rural communities.
  • Study innovations addressing issues of scarcity and sustainable development.




Bodh Shiksha Samiti

Visit an organization working for quality education for underprivileged children through community residential schools, serving more than 26,000 urban and rural children in Rajasthan.

Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti

Tour the world’s largest producer of prosthetic below-the-waist limbs, provided free to those in need regardless of caste, religion, origin, or ethnicity. This excursion introduces students to one of the most successful models of a rehabilitation center and provides an opportunity to learn about social change and the empowerment of people with physical disabilities.

IIS University, Jaipur

Meet students of your own age at this private institution, which has evolved into a university, providing higher education for women in the Jaipur district.

Universal Just Action Society (UJAS), Jodhpur

Learn about a rights movement that highlights the plight of Hindu refugees who have been victims of religious fundamentalism, advocating for their citizenship and rehabilitation.

Uttari Rajasthan Milk Union Limited Trust, Bikaner

Understand the diverse challenges of an institution that works with the poor to foster increased self-reliance.

Gramin Vikas Vigyan Samiti (GRAVIS)

Study how this group is blending traditional knowledge and modern sciences to promote sustainable and participatory community development in the rural areas of Rajasthan.

Barefoot College, Tilonia

Witness the practices of a rural development organization that provides basic services and solutions to problems in rural communities, including solar electrification, clean water, education, livelihood development, healthcare, rural handicrafts, and communication, with the aim of making communities more self-sufficient and sustainable.

Regional Excursion: Bangladesh

Visit the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, helping impoverished communities fulfill their potential across nine developing countries in Asia and Africa. At the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, gain an understanding of the nation’s advanced progress in human development. See Grameen Bank and learn how it won a Nobel Prize for helping eradicate poverty by providing micro-credit to the poor. Finally, tour coastal communities to witness the impacts of climate change and how people are adapting.

Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.


Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to:

  • Examine the dynamics of India’s present economic growth in terms of social, political, and economic changes.
  • Analyze emerging rural, urban, and climate change crises.
  • Define the issues of equity and power, and the struggle for ensuring distributive justice.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of various development “alternatives” posed in India today.
  • Improve conversational and communicative skills in Hindi and Devanagari script.
  • Conduct independent, primary research—from choosing a viable topic and appropriate methodologies, to final analyses and interpretations of data collected.
  • Synthesize the internship experience in the form of an academic internship paper and an oral presentation.

Read more about Program Learning Outcomes.


Access virtual library guide.

The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • The role of socioeconomic development in creating sustainable change
  • Views of Gandhian scholars, planners, and social justice activists
  • Hindi language through practice in large and small groups
  • Gender issues and challenges facing tribal communities
  • Rural and urban communities in transition

Development Approaches and Distributive Justice

Development Approaches and Distributive Justice – syllabus
(ASIA3010 / 3 credits)

This course provides a strong foundation on various aspects of Indian society and builds critical perspectives on post-1990s Indian development experience and its impact on rural and urban India, along with the additional challenge posed by climate change. Keeping land and natural resources central to human well-being, the course provides reflection and analysis of the social justice and sustainability issues of contemporary India and the world.

Sustainable Futures: India and Beyond

Sustainable Futures: India and Beyond – syllabus
(ASIA3020 / 3 credits)

This course exposes students to various frameworks for rethinking development in the context of India and beyond, with the potential to change perspectives and worldviews in the search for sustainable futures. The course enables students to critically reflect on the self, the community, and society and their roles in shaping global change. Students will learn the emerging alternatives to mainstream development paradigms in India and develop their theoretical and conceptual framework for thinking and acting towards a sustainable future.


Beginning Hindi – syllabus
(HIND1003-1503 / 3 credits)

Intermediate Hindi – syllabus
(HIND2003-2503 / 3 credits)

Advanced Hindi – syllabus
(HIND3003-3503 / 3 credits)

Emphasis on speaking and comprehension skills through classroom and field instruction. Based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing, students are placed in beginning, intermediate, or advanced classes.

Field Methods and Ethics

Field Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 3 credits)

A course on research methods and ethics in conducting independent social science field studies in the cross-cultural context of India. Topics include cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; selecting and refining projects; using appropriate methodologies; field study ethics and the World Learning / SIT Human Subjects Review Policy; developing contacts and finding resources; developing skills in designing research, writing proposals, choosing relevant methods, observing and interviewing; gathering, organizing, and communicating data; and maintaining a fieldwork journal.

Independent Study Project or Internship

In addition to taking the above courses, students will also need to enroll in one of the following two courses:

Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

Conducted in approved field sites across India, the Independent Study Project is an opportunity to delve more deeply into a field study topic of choice. Sample topic areas: theater for social change; traditional women’s crafts and the modern market; Indian wildlife conservation and international nongovernmental organization involvement; irrigation and water management issues; a critical analysis of elephant tourism; call centers as the job of the educated future; marketing culture and Rajput identity; microfinance and women’s empowerment; language and literacy; a comparison of traditional and mass production of Indian textiles.

Sample ISP topic areas:

  • Documentary film project on the holistic impact of hydroelectric dams on rivers in the Himalayas
  • Legal pluralism and gender justice
  • Biodiversity conservation efforts and promotion of indigenous rice varieties
  • Environmental injustice and interconnection in the context of the Ganges
  • The role of women in traditional seed supply systems
  • Information technology and social change
  • Socioeconomics of water scarcity
  • 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
  • Usage patterns and social consequences of a mobile phone–based alternative citizen journalism platform
  • Climate change, water, and biodiversity conservation
  • Urban farming in Indian cities
  • Indian wildlife conservation and international NGO involvement
  • Human-elephant conflict in northern West Bengal explored through documentary film
  • Microfinance, fair trade, and women’s empowerment

Browse this program’s Independent Study Projects / undergraduate research.


Internship and Seminar
Internship and Seminar – syllabus
(ITRN3000 / 4 credits)

This four-week internship provides an opportunity for students to intern with diverse national, international, and community-based nongovernmental organizations and other private entities working on various issues related to environment and development, rural and urban livelihood generation, environmental awareness and advocacy, women’s empowerment, ecological agriculture, sustainable mountain development, implementation and monitoring of federal programs for social security, etc. The key focus is to nurture and support students as they explore and/or build on their individual career interests. In the process, students will have opportunities to build professional networks, apply new knowledge of development and social change in India, including soft skills in an organizational or community setting. While conducting the internship, students participate in weekly debriefing sessions, typically conducted online, and write two progress reports. The internship culminates in a final paper and presentation, which detail the organization and its approaches to development and reflects on the internship experience and how it relates to the program theme.

Sample internships:

  • Interning in urban planning, energy, and food distribution at the Institute of Development Management in Rajasthan
  • Assisting rights-based approaches to development and adult literacy efforts at Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra in Uttarakhand
  • Conducting development communication and field documentation work at DamageControl in New Delhi
  • Aiding efforts related to legal rights, reproductive health, and capacity building for women at Jagori Grameen in Himachal Pradesh

Field-Based Workshop

The field-based workshop prepares you for the Independent Study Project or internship by giving you the chance to engage directly with community organizations or NGOs and learn about their approaches to development work in Indian communities. Workshop opportunities vary from semester to semester depending on logistics, facilitation, and interest and are offered in the states of Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Sikkim, and Himachal Pradesh.

Sample workshops:

  • Inclusive and need-based education for children with disabilities: Learn about the integrated model and its impact on communities at the Kiran Centre (Madhopur/Varanasi), a center that provides education, vocational training, and physical rehabilitation of children and youth—many with polio, cerebral palsy, rickets, or hearing impairment.
  • Alternatives to education: Engage in an “unlearning” process through transdisciplinary reflection, dialogue, vision-building, and experimentation at Shikshantar (Udaipur, Rajasthan), an organic learning community, video and library resource center, and applied research center that aims to challenge the monopoly of factory schooling and enable open learning communities that support new ideas of Swaraj, or self-rule, as originally envisioned by Gandhi.
  • Women’s rights and equality: Jagori Grameen (Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh), a national feminist-based organization, works with rural communities to support women’s livelihoods and self-governance, aid survivors of violence, and provide adolescent and sexuality education and rural knowledge resource centers. Visit program sites and interact with community members and workers to understand Jagori’s approach to intervention and its impact.
  • Mountain agroecology and small farmers: The Mountain Institute, located in the eastern Himalayas, works on sustainable mountain development with a focus on biodiversity conservation, climate change adaptation, and livelihood development. Stay in a village with a small farming family to observe and participate in the agroecological system and its management and to understand the principles, practices, challenges, and benefits of an ecological approach to agriculture.
  • Coast and communities: – Pondy Citizens Action Network, based in Puducherry, works on conservation and restoration of coastal systems. Learn about coastal systems through ongoing work restoring Pondicherry beach and discover the systemic actions and policies needed for a healthy coast and its services. You will also visit Auroville, an experimental intentional and sustainable community.
  • Urban solid waste management and sanitation: The work of BASIX Municipal Waste Ventures (Indore, Madhya Pradesh) on solid waste management is unique and successful amid the challenges seen in many Indian cities. This transformation came through the collaborative effort of Indore Municipality and BASIX Municipal Waste Ventures. Learn the system of comprehensive solid waste management, from door-to-door segregated waste collection to bio-manure processing and witness public mobilization and participation through the facilitation of BASIX.



Live with a homestay family for approximately six weeks. These families have a longstanding relationship with SIT and the program seeks to match students as closely as possible with families by background, health issues, and shared interests. Most families are upper middle class, with varied religious backgrounds and worldviews.

Indian family structure is transitioning from multi-generational to nuclear, and the number of families with both parents working outside the home is growing. Homestays will be with families of various sizes. Few families have pets. Students in the program typically have a separate room with an attached bathroom that might occasionally be shared by visiting relatives. Most homestays are one to 10 kilometers from the program center. Students’ homes are often within a short walk of each other, so you can share auto rickshaws to the learning center or outings, maximizing safety and convenience.

The homestay experience provides you with the opportunity to learn about customs, food, languages, and social and religious views through daily activities with families. The experience offers a sense of social change and continuity within India’s family structure and traditions. During the Indian wedding seasons, students may attend a “Bollywood-style” north Indian wedding with dance, music, jewelry, and sarees.

Other Accommodation

Other accommodation during the program includes hostels, small hotels, NGO facilities, and educational institutions.

Career Paths

A diversity of students representing many colleges, universities, and majors participate in this program. Many have gone on to do amazing things that connect to their experience abroad with SIT. Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:

  • Junior fellow with Asian University for Women, Chittagong, Bangladesh

  • Knowledge manager at Ashoka Changemakers, Washington, DC

  • Research coordinator at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Advanced Study of India, Philadelphia, PA

  • Research assistant at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College Institute for Social Innovation, Pittsburgh, PA

  • Program manager of the William J. Clinton Fellowship at the American India Foundation, New Delhi, India

Faculty & Staff

India: Sustainable Development and Social Change

Trilochan Pandey, MS
Academic Director
Awadhesh Aadhar, MA
Program Coordinator
Manoj Sain
Student Health Services Coordinator
Rama Kumari
Homestay and Lifestyle Coordinator
Anjani Sharma, MA
Language Faculty
Rashmi Sharma, PhD
Language Faculty
Uday Kumar Mehto
Program Officer

Discover the Possibilities

  • Cost & Scholarships

    SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.

    See Full Breakdown
  • Student presents her undergrad research on sexual and reproductive rights in India

    One of the hallmarks of many SIT Study Abroad programs is a real undergrad independent research project done in a foreign country. After students complete a course in research methods and ethics, they develop a research project, including determining where they will be staying, and what resources they will have available to them, present their plan, then embark on it.