How one trip to India made an impact on UI grad student and local community
Luke Juran, a Ph.D. student in geography in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, recently conducted research in post-disaster water sanitation in India through a Fulbright grant. In this video, he shares what inspired his project and how he gave back to the community while exploring the local culture.
Luke Juran made his first trip to India - and abroad- in 2003 under a Fulbright-Hays group project abroad grant. Afterward, he went on to work in Italy and Saudi Arabia and continued to travel on the side before finally deciding to return to graduate school where he attained a master’s degree researching micro-crediting in India. Following his M.A., Luke chose to conduct his dissertation research in the same region in India, but on a separate topic: disaster reconstruction.
The area of India in which he had been conducting most of his research was severely impacted by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. To determine the exact topic of his disaster reconstruction research, he visited over 25 post-disaster settlements and spoke with the affected populations, trying to identify the most important problems they were facing. What he learned was that access to water, quantity and quality of water, and issues with toilet and sewage infrastructure were the root causes behind many of the larger issues in these settlements. With this in mind, Luke decided to investigate the problem of water quality further by closely studying 14 settlements in two separate states. He interviewed members of the community, tested water quality and spoke with government officials on why these problems were occurring and how they might be averted in the future.
In addition to his dissertation research, Luke strove to engage in person-to-person diplomacy and to give back to the communities with which he was working. One way he was able to do this was through the identification and referral of children with cleft-lip and cleft-palates, and 27 of those cases received free remedial surgeries. He also arranged the donation of 21 goats to the local community. Through the Fulbright grant, Luke was able to attend several government events organized by the American embassies and consulates, including tea with the Consul General. He also had the opportunity to travel to states all over India, attend festivals and weddings of friends, and establish contacts for future research and travel.
As a recipient of a state grant, Luke now has access to apply for additional funding options from the U.S. government for future projects. He wasted no time capitalizing on this opportunity and decided to team up with an individual from India. Together they proposed a project that would use social media as a way to prepare for disasters. It would use many forms of freely-available mass communication to prepare, warn, and share information on disasters in an attempt to reduce vulnerability. The project was chosen as one of the finalists in the funding competition.
Luke is currently writing his dissertation, which is a product of his Fulbright research. After completing his Ph.D., Luke hopes to land a job in academia where he can continue to teach courses on international issues and to conduct international research.