Experience it in person 

By Karen Herland

A group of professors dedicated to developing learning opportunities within India for Canadian students has begun work in earnest on creating a summer study-in-India program.

Liselyn Adams, Associate Vice-President, International Relations, noted that funds were available that would allow a professor to visit India and develop partnerships to create a program. If all goes well, students will then be able to follow that path, for credit.

Currently, a group of six professors, three from the Department of Religion, along with film, history and English are trying to identify the contours of the program and possible partner institutions.

T.S. Rukmani holds the only community-funded research chair in Hindu Studies in North America. Magnifying glass

T.S. Rukmani holds the only community-funded research chair in Hindu Studies in North America.

“The idea was mooted by Balbir Sahni [who recently held the position of Director of the Centre for International Academic Cooperation],” explained T.S. Rukmani. Rukmani holds the only community-endowed Chair in Hindu Studies in North America. Money was raised by associations and groups across the continent to establish the Chair in 1989. Rukmani has held the position since 1996.

She remembers similar exchanges between the University of Delhi, and the University of California – Berkeley when she was the principal of Miranda House at the University of Delhi some 15 years ago. Other universities also have such exchanges, but many existng programs are only open to grad students or are prohibitively expensive. According to Leslie Orr, also of the Religion Department, and the Interdisciplinary Program in Southern Asia Studies, the study-in-India program would allow undergraduate students to earn credit and would take advantage of the Quebec government’s mobility bursary for students studying abroad. Such bursaries currently help subsidize students who travel to China to study over the summer.

The key is to take advantage of what being in India can offer. “We don’t want students doing the same thing there that they do here,” Rukmani said. “It is important to supplement what you learn on the ground.”

She sees a lot of potential for students to learn by being in the country. “We can read about sacred spaces and temples, but it is another thing to experience that and see them in person,” Rukmani said.

Orr said the program would likely have a Humanities bent, focusing on language, literature, art, history, film, architecture and the performing arts. Valuable opportunities exist in terms of language training, from Sanskrit to more modern languages as well.

The idea for a program at Concordia began to gain momentum when Rukmani was in India last summer. While in Mysore, she was invited to lecture at a summer institute for international students. She started to seek out initial contacts and potential partnerships.

From there, interest began to build and by last December those involved began to concretely think about curriculum and how to ensure the highest academic quality of the program, said Orr. “This would be a really exciting opportunity for our students.”


Concordia University