The India Initiative, a university-wide effort centered in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and its Asian Studies Program, builds knowledge and fosters dialogue around issues of critical importance for India, the United States, and the world.
In fall 2016, the initiative launched the India Innovation Studio, a highly collaborative, multidisciplinary course that operatesin partnership with the Indian government and civil society stakeholders. It gives undergraduate students the tools they need to design, prototype, and implement solutions to India’s most challenging development problems.
“The aim of the India Innovation Studio is to expose students to a particular policy problem for an extended period o f time and then use that as a lens to understand India,” explains Irfan Nooruddin, Ph.D., director of the India Initiative and the Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani Professor of Indian Politics. Dr. Nooruddin teaches the course with Mark Giordano, Ph.D., the Cinco Hermanos Chair in Environment and International Affairs, and director of the Program in Science, Technology and International Affairs.
“These are exactly the kinds of unique opportunities that undergraduate students should be having in order to understand the world we live in and the challenges that different countries face.”
This year, students were challenged with the problem of droughts in India. After taking a year-long course on the science and politics of drought, and working to come up with solutions, 20 students traveled to Mumbai in an effort to see the challenge firsthand, refine their ideas and solutions, and pitch them to Indian officials.
Students designed policy interventions in close collaboration with experts in the field, industry stakeholders, and the Maharashtra government. For an hour and a half, they presented their ideas to Devendra Fadnavis, the chief minister of Maharashtra, and to senior diplomats at the U.S. consulate in Mumbai. A third of the group remained in India for research and internship experiences.
“When I heard about this idea, it sounded like something we should’ve been doing yesterday,” shares the donor, who chose to remain anonymous. “These are exactly the kinds of unique opportunities that undergraduate students should be having in order to understand the world we live in and the challenges that different countries face.”
With a $250,000 current-use gift, the donor was able to fully support global experiences for 43 undergraduates, 20 of whom were part of the India Innovation Studio.
“Georgetown seems to do more with fewer resources than almost any leading university. You always know that a gift to Georgetown will have massive and immediate impact,” adds the donor.
The India Initiative has ambitions to establish an innovation lab that would engage alumni of the class by giving them the tools and resources they require to tackle longer term projects and further develop their ideas. The initiative also convenes an annual conference of Indian multi-sector leaders, hosts dis tinguished fellows, and funds seed grants in order to advance research, teaching, and intellectual exchange on India.