University News

India-related research receives initiative funding

Undergraduates, graduates and professors will conduct studies in India this summer

Staff Writer
Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Brown-India Initiative awarded nearly $75,000 to fund summer projects for students and faculty members this spring, marking the first time the initiative has distributed funding for summer projects.

Eight undergraduates, seven graduate students and two faculty members received funding to pursue various research programs related to social, cultural and economic topics in India.

The Brown-India Initiative, which was founded in the fall, is based at the Watson Institute for International Studies and promotes research on India as well as forums and lectures at the University on issues related to India.

“We advertised quite a bit” for the research funding program, said the initiative’s Program Manager Stephanie Abbott-Pandey, adding that the selection of funding recipients was “a competitive process with two rounds.” Abbott-Pandey said the applications were due March 15 and decisions were announced by April 1.

Juniors and sophomores “with advanced standing” could request up to $5,000 of funding, while graduate students and faculty members could ask for budgets up to $7,500 and $10,000 respectively, according to the initiative’s website.

The eight undergraduates received a combined $26,288 of the total funding, the seven graduate students were awarded $29,677 and the two faculty members gained $18,805. “We funded what we could,” Abbott-Pandey said.

The recipients are “heavily social-science based” but have a wide variety of concentrations and academic interests, Abbott-Pandey said. Economics, political science and anthropology were the three most common fields represented among the students and faculty members who received funding. Scholars in physics and philosophy, history and sociology were also among the recipients.

Students and faculty members who were selected for the funding expressed enthusiasm for the assistance with their upcoming projects.

The initiative’s organizers “were very open,” said Anamta Farook ’14, an education studies concentrator. Farook said the application process was “very thorough” and gave her an opportunity to reflect on developing the specifics of her summer project. Farook will be in Delhi for five weeks and will study policy design and research in Indian colleges and universities, according to initiative organizers.

“I’m really interested in India,” said Sujaya Desai ’14, an anthropology and international relations concentrator. Desai said her project was an “ethnographic study” that examines the relationship between social and legal changes in India. Desai said she hopes to specifically study cases of sexual violence and to potentially use her findings for a thesis.

Desai, who plans on conducting her study in Mumbai, said she is pleased to have “a great opportunity” to spend time in the city, adding that she thought the Brown-India Initiative did a good job achieving “diversity in research projects.”

David Glick GS, a PhD candidate in economics, said he will visit the Punjab region of India to study the health impacts of access to subsidized foods. Glick said he will then go to the state of Rajasthan to examine the market for water in villages without easy access to water sources.

“I hope to be able to take both of these projects and write chapters of my dissertation,” Glick said, adding that he is collaborating on his project with Assistant Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies Sriniketh Nagavarapu. Nagavarapu’s research analyzes environmental and labor economies in developing countries, according to the economics department website.

Daniel Kushner GS, a PhD candidate studying political science, wrote in an email to The Herald that “the program is remarkably valuable and helpful in promoting a wide range of research on India.” Kushner wrote that he will spend both the summer and the upcoming academic year in India exploring “how politicians learn about their voters.”

Professor of History Jo Guldi said her research will span six weeks in India this summer and will help contribute to a book on the global developments in land reform since the mid-nineteenth century.

Funding recipients are required to update initiative organizers on their progress during the summer and will present their findings at workshops organized by the initiative this fall. The two faculty members who received summer funding will be featured as part of the initiative’s Friday seminar series next semester.

“It has been a busy year and we’ve learned a lot as a program,” Abbott-Pandey said, adding that the initiative’s “biggest challenge is making the audience broader.” Though the majority of funding for the initiative does not come from the University, administrators have been very supportive of the program, Abbott-Pandey said. Initiative Director and Professor of International Studies Ashutosh Varshney  actively fundraises for the initiative, Abbott-Pandey said.

The initiative’s organizers hopes to continue this funding program in future summers, though budgets are subject to annual fluctuations, Abbott-Pandey said.

Initiative organizers plan to organize a South Asia lecture series with Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this fall, Abbott-Pandey said, adding that administrators are planning to introduce two or three faculty positions for the 2014-15 academic year to establish “more formal interactions in courses.”