India Sustainable Development Practicum

By Jennifer Conway ('12) and Eilean Ellison ('11) / Created 2011-04-01

The Auroville, India Sustainable Development Practicum (CM 563), a graduate-level course offered by AUP’s Department of Global Communications, takes a practical approach to teaching development communications.  The practicum, which takes place over winter break each year, offers students a chance to create a media project with a local NGO working in the villages in and surrounding Auroville.  In addition to fostering relationships with NGOs, students attend lectures on sustainability, detail their experiences in field notes and blog posts and conduct on-site interviews with sustainable development practitioners.

During the practicum, students work with NGOs that focus on women’s empowerment, environmental sustainability, community health and well-being, socially responsible business, and/or education.  Through this hands-on experience, students gain valuable, real-world knowledge that they can take with them upon graduation.

“It’s one thing to theorize about development in a classroom setting, it’s another thing to practice development in the field,” said Jennifer Conway, an AUP graduate student studying Global Communications and Civil Society.  “The practicum provided me with an opportunity to work alongside people who spend every day striving to improve the lives of villagers in rural India—an experience that has proven invaluable in helping me understand the potentials and challenges inherent in a career in sustainable development.”

Just concluding its third year, the Sustainable Development Practicum is lead by Charles Talcott, Assistant Professor of Global Communications, along with Tanya Elder of Linnaeus University in Sweden, which partners with AUP during the month in India.  The program is made possible with the continued support of Celeste Schenck, President of AUP; Waddick Doyle, Director of the AUP Division of Global Communications and Film; and Susan Perry, Director of the AUP Division of International Politics, Economics and Public Policy.


Jennifer Conway is a candidate for the Master's in Global Communication and Civil Society ('12).

Eilean Ellison is a candidate for the Master of Arts in International Affairs ('11)

About Auroville and the NGOs

Auroville, an international community located in Tamil-Nadu, India, is an ambitious and unique experiment in sustainable living.  The community gives people from all over the world the opportunity to engage in environmental, business, health, and educational practices that are grounded in a deep connection to the earth and community, and also recognize the impact development has on future generations.  Auroville aims to be an example for other communities working toward sustainability.

There are many NGOs working in and around Auroville.  Their primary areas of focus are on improving the lives of rural villagers through empowerment projects, education, and environmental awareness, and most of the NGOs are committed to a holistic approach to development.  To learn more about this year’s projects, visit the practicum website here


Giving Back

Each year, the students who attend the sustainable development practicum present A Night in India as a fun way to give back to the communities that so generously hosted them during the practicum.  The money raised during the fundraiser, which includes music, food and an art exhibition, is donated to one or two of the NGOs with whom the students worked.  This year, the majority of the funds raised will be donated to Social Awareness for Liberation Trust (SALT) Children's Home, which is located in a small village just outside of Auroville.  SALT provides food, clothing, shelter, and education for some of the area’s neediest orphaned children, who without the help of this organization would be living on the street.  The remaining funds will be donated to an NGO based in Auroville.  Both gifts will be hand-delivered by students attending the 2011-2012 practicum this fall — completing a circle of giving that AUP plans to continue well into the future. 


Practicum website and blog: