The University of Iowa

In the news: offering what no classroom can

March 1st, 2017
Photo by Helaina Thompson.

Photo by Helaina Thompson

By Cristobal Mckinney, Iowa Now

Dozens of University of Iowa students and faculty each year choose to spend three weeks of the cold Midwest winter in the warm, sunny regions of India as part of an observational learning program called India Winterim. The goal of the program is to educate and inspire students by having them observe firsthand the efforts and methods of exceptional Indian organizations.

“I’m looking for who is doing extraordinary things and asking, ‘How can we learn from them?’” says Rangaswamy Rajagopal, program founder and UI professor of geographical and sustainability sciences. “All my programs in India have people struggling in extraordinarily difficult situations. They’re trying to overcome those difficulties and make life better. What better model is there from which our students and faculty can learn?”

India Winterim differs from conventional study abroad programs because of its focus on observational learning. With support from International Programs’ Study Abroad Office, Rajagopal has spent many summers researching and connecting with public and private nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in India that are recognized as being exceptional in their field. He then provides students with opportunities to directly observe and learn from those best practices.

“We have Nobel Prize winners, CEOs of large businesses—especially nonprofits—and internationally renowned doctors all opening up their doors to this program,” says Rajagopal.