India Winterim: International Development
2016 Heiskell Award Winner: Study Abroad
Nomination submitted by: Dr. Raj Rajagopal, Professor & India Winterim Faculty Director
Today, as never before, education must be globally oriented to prepare students from around the country and around the world to move confidently across borders, to interact effectively with people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and to take pleasure in a life filled with inquiry and discovery. A highlight of the university's Strategic Plan, “Renewing the Iowa Promise” is to create more opportunities for students to study abroad. A winter term program that brings students to India to work with leading social entrepreneurs to develop solutions to real world problems is doing just that.
India Winterim is a high quality three-week, field-based program which partners with Indian non-profits that address the most pressing contemporary societal issues. Students explore topics such as art and architecture, biodiversity and sustainability, education, entrepreneurship, housing, performing arts, healthcare, journalism, renewable energy, social work, and water resources.
Over the last ten years the program has grown from one course with two faculty members and 17 students to one that encompasses numerous courses in different disciplines, enrolling an average of 135 students per year in multiple small sections. The courses engage dozens of University of Iowa faculty members and provide study abroad opportunities to a broad base of Iowa students, preparing them to bring the new knowledge and cultural insights to their professional lives. In particular, using the winter term has provided opportunities to study abroad not previously available to students in engineering and health science fields. In all, India Winterim has provided transformative learning experiences and opportunities for cultural exchange to nearly 900 participants, including 30 faculty members.
The success of the India program is predicated on the assumption that valuable lessons can be learned by closely observing and studying the inner-workings of organizations that have achieved a reputation for excellence in service. The program searches for and identifies award-winning non-profits in India from many fields and secures the commitment of its leaders for a collaborative educational experiment. UI sustains this innovation by continuously replicating and rejuvenating the program with infusion of new Indian partner organizations from different fields, both in content and geography.
Rather than focus on prior interest in India’s history, culture, and languages, it has engaged students through their major fields of study, introducing students to India who may have never planned to go there. By reversing the equation and engaging students and faculty across the disciplines, UI has created a model that can be used for different countries and by different colleges and universities.
India Winterim courses build on these study abroad experiences to internationalize the University of Iowa campus in three major ways: first, the program has enabled students and faculty from each of the UI’s eleven colleges (Business, Education, Engineering, Graduate College, Law, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Dentistry, and Public Health) to actively participate, learn, and benefit from exposure to many contexts in India; second, it has engaged administrators and staff in the offices of International Programs, Continuing Education, Diversity Office, Honors Program, and from the various colleges of the university to support study abroad success; and finally, the program leverages in-kind support from and builds ongoing relationships with award-winning, Indian non-profit partner organizations that are making a difference on the ground.