the meaning of manodharma

Manodharma happens when you least expect it. It is made up of those small moments of inspiration when you feel truly touched by your surroundings or a moment of openness with someone you meet. Manodharma is what makes you sing in the shower, what transports your mind when you hear the birds.

We are trying to cultivate moments of Manodharma - little moments of inspired collaboration between organizations and partners who find, across continents, they have much to share with each other. 


living manodharma

"Looking beyond career aspirations to life aspirations, India has inspired me. How can I not strive to be more generous after being offered an apple from a resident at an orphanage? .... In short, I could not be more grateful for this opportunity. In three weeks I have experienced more than I ever would as a hospital volunteer in the U.S., and more importantly, I learned valuable lessons in generosity, patience, and humility.”

— WB, student on Health & Rehabilitation Medicine course



India’s astounding diversity of religions, languages, and cultures is unique and unparalleled. The society of vast subcontinent, varied and complex in its rich heritage, is among the oldest in the world.

Culturally diverse and complex, with mainly rural, traditional, and agrarian population, India now is also a major industrial power experiencing rapid urban growth and rural-urban migration. It is a nation undergoing significant political, economic, and social change, while at the same time struggling to maintain many of its traditions and customs. India today is unfolding a story of a billion plus people, or more precisely, one sixth of the world’s population, on a big move as India's large and complex systems rapidly moving top-down and the country emerge as one of the fastest growing economies of the world.


team manodharma


 Raj Rajagopal, founder

Raj taught in geography at the University of Iowa (UI) for 38 years. He founded and directed the award-winning India Winterim Program (based on the Manodharma Model of engagement) at the UI. In 2016, IIE (Institute for International Education) that manages the Fulbright awards for the US Government, presented the prestigious Andrew Heiskell Award to India Winterim for showcasing the most innovative model for internationalizing the campus (study abroad) that promotes excellence in global learning. The award honors the most outstanding initiatives among IIE’s membership of more than 1,400 higher education institutions around the world. In June 2017, Raj retired from the UI and founded Manodharma.


Dr. Umashankar Subramanian, India Program Manager

Dr. Umashankar is the Principal of Padamshree School of Public Health (PSPH) in Bangalore, India.

Established in 2009, PSPH is the first to offer both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Public Health in Bangalore and affiliated to the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences of Karnataka. The PSPH programs blend theory and practice to equip students with the skills needed to address contemporary public health challenges.

Uma graduated with a medical degree, specializing in Homeopathic Medicine and Surgery, from the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, Bangalore and a Master’s degree in Public Health from the University of South Florida, Tampa, USA. He has 16 years of experience in clinical and public health, is an expert in the field of telemedicine and e-health. Prior to joining PSPH, Uma was the Director of International programs and Public Health at Meenakshi Mission Hospital and Research Centre in Madurai. He initiated and started the telemedicine department at MMHRC, one of the most successful models in the country. He further designed and implemented 4 different telemedicine projects across India, in remote locations, and designed 3 state-of-the-art telemedicine buses and mobile hospitals. He has implemented more than 30 public health projects in the fields of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, breast and cervical cancer, road traffic accidents, solid waste management, and others. He has supervised to completion the master’s theses of over 60 students. Dr. Umashankar serves as Manodharma’s Project Director for India. Dr. Umashankar will also serve as the Program Leader for a Manodharma Educator Travel Grant Program titled “Program in Rural Public Health” that is being planned for the upcoming winter in India (December 29, 2018 to January 11/12, 2019).

Lauren Katalinich, Communications Director

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Lauren graduated with a BA in International Relations and French, and an MA in Strategic Communications, both with distinction from the University of Iowa. She has traveled extensively in India, China, and Costa Rica gaining significant proficiencies in language, culture and context. After serving as a creative media specialist and marketing manager over 4 years at the University of Iowa, Lauren moved to London in 2017, where she now serves as the Marketing Communications Manager for the Department of Management at the London School of Economics.

Geret M. Smith, Digital Strategist

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“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” -Maya Angelou

Geret is a strategic leader, motivated to organize change. Geret is quick to see inefficiency and conceptualize new solutions and enjoys developing long-range plans to accomplish the vision at hand. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa specializing in entrepreneurship- assisting start-ups, branding, marketing, content curation, strategy, and sales. His career strengths include, but not limited to: making a difference and living a life that influences others, craving to know more, helping take control of a situation and make decisions, transforming something small into something superb, and quickly figuring out how all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fit together.

Board of directors

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Jerry Anthony

Since 2000, Jerry has been on the faculty in urban and regional planning at the University of Iowa. He is a global change-maker. In 2003, he co-founded the Housing Trust Fund of Johnson County, a non-profit with an operating budget of $1.2 million in FY2018 for the creation of new affordable housing stock in the county. He is also the co-founder of the World Institute of Sustainable Development in Kochi, Kerala, India.


Rahul Krishnan

Rahul has a BS in Microbiology from UCLA, a master’s in Environmental Toxicology from Cornell, and an MBA in Finance/Economics from USC’s Marshall School of Business. Most recently, Rahul was the Associate Director of Market Access, and his experience at Biogen included several leadership positions in Market Access and Finance, supporting manufacturing and commercial operations. He brings 17 years of experience in finance and strategy in the healthcare arena during which he has worked across a range of industries, including biopharmaceuticals, health insurance and consulting.

Jenifer Vick

Jenifer is an assistant professor of instruction and the coordinator of the Fundraising and Philanthropy Communication Certificate at the University of Iowa. She graduated from Mount Mercy University with a BA in Communication. Before joining UI in 2016, she began her career as a professional fundraising and communication strategist in 2004. Jenifer is a longtime member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and served on the AFP Eastern Iowa Chapter board, including two years as president. She is a board member of multiple nonprofits throughout eastern Iowa. Jenifer received the AFP National Philanthropy Day Outstanding Fundraising Professional award in 2016.


Joan VandenBerg

Joan has been working with youth and families in Iowa City for 34 years. From 1985 to 1994, she directed neighborhood centers garnering community support for 20 major grants to expand services to low income neighborhoods. In 1994, she was appointed to serve as “At-Risk Coordinator” by the school district for developing a support system for reducing school dropout rate. Over the last 22 years, Joan has established numerous programs in support of students, families, and community. She is active at all levels in programs related to criminal and juvenile justice. In 2013, she received the Rick Graf Award from the Iowa City Human Rights Commission for her commitment to youth and families.


Robert Rehfuss

Bob received a BA in Accounting from the University of Iowa in 1977. Since 1978 he has been a professional licensed/certified Public Accountant. He was past president of the Hawkeye Chapter of the Iowa Society of CPAs. After a distinguished career, Bob has served or serves on Iowa City Ambassador’s Club, Old Capital SERTOMA Club, Hawkeye Running Club, Heritage Christian School, University of Iowa Community Credit Union, Good News Bible Church, and others. In his career, he has provided accounting and tax preparation services to small businesses, including nonprofits. He has experience in overseeing planned giving including charitable trusts.

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Julie Rajagopal

Julie received a BA in New Media from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and a Certificate in Product Management from the Haas School of Business at UC, Berkeley. Over the past decade she has held product leadership positions at top tech companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. She currently serves as a product manager in Facebook's AR/VR division. Her philanthropic efforts include work with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, the Asian Law Caucus, and Code for America.


Joseph Sulentic

Joe is an outstanding educator and winner of collegiate teaching award at Iowa’s John Pappajohn’s Entrepreneurial Center. Campus-wide, Joe is consistently recognized by graduating seniors as one of top 20 faculty for having had the greatest impact on their education. Since undergraduate years at UCLA, he has been creating businesses. Recently, he was principal with Fenix Uprising, a strategic/tactical management company that applies Navy SEAL methodology to improve organizational performance. The SEAL’s emotional resilience is applicable to entrepreneurs and articles and books on it are required reading in Joe’s courses. He is an avid social entrepreneur and committed environmentalist.


Dr. Vijaya Raghavan

VJ earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Mysore, and the University of Mumbai (ICT) and a PhD from the University of Rhode Island. He is a retired Organic/ Polymer Chemist and worked at American Micro Systems, Hewlett-Packard and Agilent Technologies for 30 years. He held several management positions in these companies. He has co-authored several peer reviewed publications in the areas of polymers, liquid crystals and holds several patents as well.


Usha Eleswarapu

Usha completed with distinction her bachelor’s degree in Geography from Queen Mary’s College in Chennai, two master’s degrees, one in Geography with an emphasis in ecology and another with an emphasis in hydrology from the Universities of Madras and Iowa, respectively. She produced a path-breaking Ph.D. dissertation in Geography from the University of Iowa in 1992 that bagged three national awards. Her research saves millions of water quality monitoring $ every year for the US and state governments. She teaches part-time at Rutgers University and in her spare time volunteers for the HELP Foundation.