India Higher Education Administrators Seminar, March 20, 2009

Today we went to two different institutions of higher education in Mumbai. Our first stop was Ramniranjan Jhunjhunwala College. RJC is located at a train station and in the midst of a poor section of Mumbai. Slums are just steps away. RJC has both a school to educate disadvantaged kids from the slums and also a college that offers undergraduate and graduate programs. Many of the students in the college are disadvantaged. RJS’s motto is “knowledge is all ambrosia.” Isn’t that a great motto? RJC has about 3,500 undergraduates. Although class sizes are large (about 120), the student faculty ratio in pratical sessions is 1:15. Faculty involve students in their research and most of the research is community based. RJC provides support from morning to night for students. They also believe in providing cocurricular programs for their students and have several different athletic teams. Apparently, they have a very talented basketball team! Our visit with the faculty began with a beautiful prayer to the godess of learning, Saraswati. The faculty have some very interesting research projects that are focused on social justice and human rights. For instance, one faculty member in History is studying Indian diaspora in the US as well as a comparison of Dalit versus African American literature. (Dalit is the untouchable caste.) If our students want a real Indian experience focused on social justice and working with disadvantaged groups just steps away, this would be the ideal location. It seems like an incredible place.

Funke and Beth in front of Saraswati, godess of learning

Funke and Beth in front of Saraswati, godess of learning

We then went to the Tata Institute for Social Justice. TISS is also focused on social and rural development and all programs are based on equality, justice, and inclusion. Most of the programs are graduate level. However, TISS has a program for undergraduates with Wells College. This program is during the January term and takes place in a rural location. This is one of the few institutions we have visited that has many agreements with other US universities. Much of their work is field based. As the directors stated, they research science evidence for social issues. The Wells program is definitely worth a closer look.

Plaque at Tata Institute of Social Science

Plaque at Tata Institute of Social Science

We arrived back at the hotel a bit earlier than the past few days. So, a group of us decided to go to Colaba Causeway to do some shopping. It was incredible! I did buy some gifts and enjoyed the sights. We walked past the famous Leopold Cafe which is well-known for being a hang out for foreigners. It was one of the locations that several people were killed during the attacks in November. I remember reading about it, too, in the book “Shantaram.” The Causeway has so many people shopping and so many street vendors. One can find a real bargain if one looks hard enough.

Thoughts of the day. As US citizens, we take for granted clean water. I do not drink the water in India nor do I use the water from the tap to brush my teeth or rinse my tooth brush. We just expect the water to be safe when we are in the US. But, without infrastructure and money, safe water is not possible. We have it easy in the US. Another thought is that my dog lives better than many, many children in India. She gets two good meals a day, has fresh water, and a very comfortable place to sleep.

Goat resting by the side of a busy street in Mumbai

Goat resting by the side of a busy street in Mumbai

Colorful stand of imitation flowers in Mumbai

Colorful stand of imitation flowers in Mumbai

Mumbai has certainly been a wonderful place to visit. We spend the morning at Mumbai Unversity tomorrow. Then off to Bangalore.

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About bethacunningham

Professor of Physics
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