On February 28, 2019, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham was invited to participate in a Cross-Cultural Educational Symposium with Colorado State University at Taj Gateway Hotel in Kochi. Around 40 students participated in the symposium, including students from Amrita School of Business (ASB, Coimbatore campus), Live-in-Labs® program, and Semester at Sea® program.
Prof. Vishwanathan and Prof. Gopakumar V., currently working in the area of rural marketing along with 12 students, participated in the symposium from ASB, Coimbatore. The Live-in-Labs® faculty, Mr. Renjith Mohan and Mr. Krishna Nandanan participated in the symposium with a team of ten Live-in-Labs® students. Prof. Chris Block who teaches 'Design Thinking' at the Colorado State University participated in the symposium with 20 Semester at Sea® students. The primary focus of the event was introducing to the Semester at Sea® students the Amrita Live-in-Labs® Program and the rural marketing activities of Amrita School of Business, Coimbatore campus, and to discuss how the UN SDGs can be addressed in an experiential learning way.
Amrita offers Live-in-Labs®, an experiential learning program conceptualized to address the UN SDGs in rural areas. It is a six-credit academic curriculum offered as an elective, spread over two semesters. The students travel to villages to identify challenges, devise sustainable interventions and carry out the implementation of the solution. Likewise, Colorado State University (CSU) is the academic sponsor of the Semester at Sea® program that integrates multiple-country study, interdisciplinary coursework, and hands-on field experience for meaningful engagement in the global community. Over a 100-day voyage on a shipboard campus, students are offered a wide variety of coursework from 20 – 25 fields of study that are integrated with relevant field classes in up to a dozen countries, allowing for an experiential, comparative education that is truly global. Students can earn 12-15 academic credits from Colorado State University during the voyage.
The Amrita Live-in-Labs® students demonstrated their work in the villages through poster presentations. They had worked in the villages of Odisha, Bihar, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh and their work focused on the UN SDGs covering the areas of health, waste management, income generation, water and sanitation. The presentations threw light on the ground realities of a rural environment and the need for a multidisciplinary team effort and ethnographic research to bring about a sustainable intervention in a village.
Following the poster presentations, a productive group discussion took place between the Amrita Live-in-Labs® and the Semester at Sea® students. Each group came up with innovative marketing ideas to promote Live-in-Labs® in their respective Universities. The symposium concluded with an hour-long boat ride, where the Live-in-Labs® students continued sharing their experiences. It really brought out the urgency and the importance of student participation in compassion-driven humanitarian research work addressing the UN SDGs through experiential learning. The Semester at Sea® students was inspired and motivated to pin down marketing strategies that will help Amrita promote its Live-in-Labs® program internationally. It seemed as though the symposium added an interesting aspect of empathy to the education cum exotic voyage ventured by the Semester at Sea® students.