MOU Establishes Learning Center in India

September 25, 2013

Fredrik Logevall, vice provost for international affairs, signed a memorandum of understanding between Cornell and the Keystone Foundation Sept. 23 that establishes the Nilgiris Field Learning Center (NFLC) in Kotagiri, Tamil Nadu, India.

The NFLC is a partnership between Keystone and Cornell to explore research projects and engage in teaching and learning that meets the needs of both partners. Research projects will be identified collaboratively between Cornell faculty members, Keystone professionals, and community members living in the Nilgiris region.

The NFLC is offering a study abroad program in spring 2014, where Cornell students will be engaged in experiential learning with members of indigenous communities and Keystone staff who work with them. Each group will bring their experiences and knowledge to learning modules devoted to ecosystems, health and nutrition, and water management.

“We imagine the NFLC as a place for transformative engaged learning and research for the Cornell and Keystone communities, where we will work together on questions of sustainable livelihoods and biodiversity conservation,” said Neema Kudva, associate professor of city and regional planning, who is faculty lead on the project. “The first class of learners, from Cornell and from indigenous communities in the Nilgiris, will be in Kotagiri in spring 2014. It is exciting, and a challenge, but something that my colleagues and I want to help build.”

The project has received campuswide support as an innovative example of engaged research and teaching. Cornell faculty and Keystone staff will lead a semester-long, 12- to 15-credit study abroad program in spring 2014. Five modules will help students develop research, fieldwork, analytical, and presentation skills. Fieldwork focuses on ecosystems, health, nutrition, and waste management.

The idea for the NFLC was brought to Cornell by Pratim Roy, director of Keystone, as his Humphrey Fellow Project in 2012–13. A Cornell team of five faculty members, two students, and one staff member traveled to Kotagiri in January 2013; the Keystone team is in Ithaca for two weeks to work on curriculum and research projects, to assure that administrative issues are addressed and to continue to build relationships with Cornell faculty and programs that support the NFLC.

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