Creating your future India course

Begin with a Manodharma Educator Travel program

The Manodharma Model of Global-India Engagement empowers passionate teachers, scholars, researchers, and service professionals [faculty in our context] from all walks of life who are also interested in social change, especially in resource-poor settings. This process begins with a 2-week all-expense paid travel grant to India to meet and experience the inner workings of some of the very best nonprofits and academic institutions of India.

Our track record in creating courses

Every faculty member who has gone with us on the Manodharma travel grant program or its predecessor (the India Winterim Program at the University of Iowa) has been quite creative and shown significant enterprise in designing their own course(s) for their students, after they return from India. Many such faculty-led courses for student participation in shared learning, research and service have been enormously successful. At the University of Iowa alone, the Manodharma model had enabled over 80 faculty to develop 60+ academic, research, and transformative service experiences (in the form of short courses) in India for the benefit of over 1,300 students during the period 2006-18. The students and faculty from all the 11 colleges of the university have benefited from this program. For this model of engagement, the UI was recognized with the prestigious Andrew Heiskell Award (best of the brand among 1,400 academic institutions from around the world) for study abroad in 2016.

General principles in designing new faculty-led courses

Once any disciplinary content/context (say in social work, in healthcare, in housing, in delivery of services, or in any field) is experienced in a different culture, a variety of comparative analyses and evaluations become readily viable, visible and feasible. This has been one of the most popular themes followed in our faculty-led courses in India.    

  • Comparative Analyses (why are there differences?),

    • US-India comparisons,

    • Within India (regional) comparisons,

    • Gendered analyses,

    • Age-based analysis,

    • Analysis based on socio-economic status,

    • Race, tribe, or religious differences, and others

  • Study of situations that are unique to India,

  • Learning by observations,

  • Learning from each other,

  • It works in the US; will it work in India? If not, why not?

  • Enabling web sites of partner organizations,

  • Preparing provocative partnership proposals,

  • Preparing business plans for partners,

  • Designing solutions for partners,

  • Software development for partners,

  • Data-based solutions and simulations for partners,

  • Case studies in excellence,

  • Analysis of issues through interdisciplinary perspectives,

  • Literature review of an issue of interest to the partner organization, and others.

The design of faculty-led courses in India

Creating a syllabus for a new faculty-led course in India for a first-timer could be daunting. Prof. Rajagopal has enabled over 60 faculty from various disciplines overcome this challenge. After the first time, faculty build on their experiences and cherish this activity and claim that this to be one of the most rewarding and transformative of their career experiences in India or anywhere, for that matter. In general, developing a robust course with a dynamic living syllabus will include the following,

  • An inspired faculty with a passion to teach, learn, and share,

  • Access to a literature on the culture, context and history related to partner organizations (Manodharma can be of assistance here),

  • A good working relationship with the leaders and staff of partner organizations to get an in-depth understanding of what makes them tick (the central purpose of the Manodharma Travel Grant),

  • Understanding the reasons and processes that led partner organizations to achieve excellence and high distinction

  • Armed with such information & insights, Manodharma strongly believes that all its inspired faculty will have a course reflecting their own unique brand

  • Such a brand cannot be replicated

  • Manodharma stands ready to serve as a scaffolding (or a constructivist enabler) for faculty discovery

Almost all the courses taught at the University under its India Winterim Program (2006-19) has had the benefit of the initial support, insights, and advice of Professor Rajagopal and have followed one or more of the general principles listed above. Ultimately, each course will still be unique and will carry the stamp of individual faculty and their aspirations, style, and the unique blend of their own teaching and research interests. That’s where the true engagement begins.

For illustration, examples of 2 course descriptions/syllabi, a final presentation of outcomes, a detailed daily itinerary for three weeks for a healthcare course, and student comments as part of their final report are included below.  As part of its archival collections, Manodharma also has a rich collection of partner-oriented literature, numerous course outlines, student assessments, final reports and presentations. In addition, for selected years, after return, students and faculty have also organized a conference of presentations for a whole-day to showcase what they learned to the entire campus community. Some of these materials are also available in the collection. If appropriate, any part of this archive will be made available to Manodharma faculty travel grant recipients when they are ready to launch their own faculty-led courses in the future.

Examples from the Manodharma archives

Microfinance for Women-Run Enterprises (2006-2007, University of Iowa)

Social Entrepreneurship in Tamil Nadu, India (2007-2008, University of Iowa)

Health Sciences and Rehabilitation Medicine in India (2013-2014, University of Iowa)