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This summer, with help from the UNC Global Studies department, I traveled to Rajasthan, India to be part of Duke University’s Summer School Program for International Development Leaders. This six-week program combined intensive coursework in the city of Udaipur with fieldwork in a nearby rural village. In total, twenty-four of us participated in the program: eight students from Duke/UNC, eight students from universities across India, and eight “early career” NGO specialists, young adults who have been working in India for the past few years in the fields of health, education, and livelihood.

I can assuredly say that this summer was one of the most challenging and rewarding of my adult life. Our coursework was divided into two sections – Management and Development. Management classes focused on management strategies, structures of NGOs, and relevant case studies. The Development classes were taught by visiting professors from Sanford School and served as a brief yet extremely helpful methods class. We held sessions on interviewing and focus group discussion techniques, randomized surveying and questionnaire design, and macro- and micro-level analyses on poverty in India.

The most fruitful aspect of the program was working with an NGO to develop a project proposal that they could use in the future. To do this, my team, and I, conducted rigorous fieldwork over the course of three weeks in the rural village of Khankhla. The NGO to which we were assigned was my top choice – Jatan Sansthan – an organization established in 2001 whose interventions on health and education have a primary focus on women, migrants, and youth in rural communities. Through research, our team identified youth and adolescent education as the primary target for intervention, and we developed a project proposal in accordance with the data collected.

During our time in the field, we developed close relationships with the local girls’ youth group organized by Jatan Sansthan. Our project proposal focused on the desires of the girls to increase educational opportunities in their village. Part One of our proposal was a Safe Transport pilot project for youth to access nearby colleges and training centers. Part Two of the proposal was an arts-based initiative to raise awareness in the village of the importance of education, specifically targeting the highly marginalized and mostly illiterate lower caste communities. This section of the proposal was grounded in the research I focused on during the spring semester on arts-based organizing as a method and vehicle for social change. The final written proposal included, among other sections, an implementation plan, a cost-benefit analysis, a sensitivity analysis, an anticipated budget, and an appendix of primary data tables.

Although not explicitly related, I believe that the work I did in India this summer will be a valuable aspect of my final research capstone project on migrant arts-based organizing here in North Carolina. I was able to incorporate the foundation of my research into the summer project, grounding the arts as a method for social change across contexts. Additionally, the fieldwork I undertook serves as the most hands-on methods course that a student can take and I plan to utilize the skills gained in data collection this semester.