ANN ARBOR—During her many visits to India, Norma Sarkar became fascinated with the country’s strong community health programs that involve workers in rural areas, home visits and elderly care.

“I always thought our students can learn a lot by interacting with these health workers,” said Sarkar, a clinical instructor who has taught community health for a decade at the University of Michigan School of Nursing.

Now the students will, thanks to an India Initiative award from the U-M Office of the President. The School of Nursing will take 12 to 15 students to India for three weeks in 2015 and 2016.

“(The) world is getting smaller and smaller,” Sarkar said. “It’s good to learn more about each other.”

The new award program was created after President Mary Sue Coleman’s visit to India late last year.  She issued a call for proposals in January to launch new programs and build on ideas generated during her trip.

“I am excited to see the student learning opportunities that will come out of these initiatives,” Coleman said.

James Holloway, U-M vice provost for global and engaged education, said 21 proposals were received and six of them were selected for awards totaling $487,000. They included projects involving the Stamps School of Art and Design, Law School, Ross School of Business and the Center for South Asian Studies.

The hope is that these awards will inspire innovative programs that enhance the student learning experiences and develop ties with India to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges.

Another program selected for the funding builds on the alumni connections in India to provide internship opportunities for students. This effort branches out across several units such as the College of Literature, Science and the Arts as well as the College of Engineering.

Rachael Criso from the LSA dean’s office has been working with Indian alumni to host student interns from U-M. She already has secured internship opportunities for three students traveling to Delhi and Mumbai to work in a startup and a private leadership program this summer.

“With the grant, we will be adding more cities, more alumni and more internships in India,” Criso said.

The award also will help pay a small stipend to the students.

Holloway said, “Our alumni in India have been amazingly supportive, and they greatly value helping our students journey to India to understand the India that they love.”

Funded projects at a glance:

  • Cardamom Project (Stamps School): Plans to build a strong India platform for the Stamps School in Mumbai and Bangalore.
  • Alumni-sponsored summer internship program (LSA and College of Engineering): Connecting with alumni to host student internships.
  • Community health field experience (School of Nursing): Provide a three-week field experience for students.
  • C.K. Prahalad Initiative (Ross School): Expand the Ross Multidisciplinary Action Project model to more sites in India.
  • Center for South Asian Studies Project (LSA): Fund staff support to help continue student programs with Delhi University and Ashoka.
  • MLaw Externships in India (Law School): Pilot externships with the Alternative Law Forum in Bangalore.