Fellows 2016-2017

The Brandeis-India Fellows Program offers limited funding for the development of creative projects aimed at building ties between Brandeis University and Indian alumni, partners, and organizations.

In April 2016, the Brandeis-India Fellows Program selected six fellows to represent Brandeis in India during summer 2016 and academic year 2016-17. Below you will find a list of the Fellows and a description of each of their projects:

Ilana Cohen
M.A. student in Anthropology and Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies

Ilana will be conducting research on the First Period Function, a celebratory menarche ritual practiced in Tamil Nadu. The project will explore adolescent girls’ and women’s experiences of this function and how it might impact their relationships to their embodied selves. Through exploring the First Period Function from an intersectional perspective, this research seeks to expand the international conversation on Menstrual Hygiene Management beyond biomedical issues. Ilana’s interest in this topic and the research project are inspired by her time working with Eco Femme, a social business that makes washable cloth pads, offers menstrual health workshops, and conducts qualitative research in Tamil Nadu. One of the goals of the project is to produce academic and analytical research that is useful and accessible for such organizations and to explore opportunities for further collaborations between academia and women-centered social initiatives.

Richa Karki
M.A. student in Sustainable International Development

Richa will be undertaking her practicum as a second-year Heller Student in New Delhi, Jharkhand and Gujarat, India. Richa will be working with the International Center for Research on Women. Her work will focus on addressing menstruation health-related taboos. While in India, Richa’s project will explore the various obstacles faced by female students in school and at home due to their menstruation and the consequences on their health and education. She will advocate for raising awareness, ending the silence around menstruation and spotlighting solutions that help girls and women to manage their periods. Richa hopes to break the prohibitions surrounding menstruation that limit women’s potential and perpetuate gender inequalities.

April Nishimura
M.B.A./M.A. student in Sustainable International Development

April Nishimura will work with teachers, students, and out-of-school youth in Gujarat, India to measure the success of an early literacy intervention developed by Literacy4All. This innovative method, based on a domino-style game, utilizes play to teach the components of basic literacy. It has been used to teach over a million adults and children to read throughout Central America and is being introduced for the first time on the Indian sub-continent in a number of formal and informal schools. A key component of April’s work as a fellow will be understanding the impact of poverty, caste, gender, etc., on a student’s ability to access education and to learn while in school. The assessment of Literacy4All’s methods will support future interventions to reduce illiteracy in Gujarat, as well as suggestions for the program’s applicability in other regions of India.

Sara Taylor
B.A., Class of ’16

After her graduation from Brandeis this past May, Sara is headed back to India in the fall. Having petitioned to add the Minnesota Studies in International Development Program (MSID) as a study abroad option, Sara spent her junior academic year in India. Based out of Bangalore, she worked with several NGO’s in the south, including BuDa Folklore, an organization dedicated to the preservation of indigenous folk knowledge in Uttara Kannada. This fall Sara plans to re-join the BuDa team as an intern, helping to organize student trips and workshops. She hopes to continue to strengthen relationships in India as a Brandeis alumna while working with an organization that promotes peace-building through environmental and cultural education.

Holly Walters
Ph.D. student in Anthropology

Holly is undertaking her dissertation fieldwork in the Muktinath Valley in Mustang District, Nepal. Her research focuses on the pilgrimage economies and embodied ritual activities of the primarily Indian and Nepali Hindu pilgrims who visit Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa Temple and who primarily travel to the region in search of sacred fossil stones called Shaligram. While in Nepal, Holly will undertake Shaligram pilgrimages along with the pilgrims who frequent the Kali-Gandaki River (where Shaligram stones are found) and will attend to daily ritual activities focused on the mobility of sacred stones across national and religious borders. In this way, her project explores the links between religious practice, national identity, and community-building between India, Tibet and Nepal in a time of great social upheaval.

Shane Weitzman
B.A., Class of ’16

Shane will travel to Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh to help organize local volunteers to carry out an evaluation study of The Akshaya Patra Foundation by the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. The data generated by the survey will be used as a baseline measurement in a longitudinal evaluation, and may be useful in measuring the effectiveness of Akshaya Patra’s implementation of the mid-day meal scheme, a national school lunch program in India. Shane worked as an intern for The Akshaya Patra Foundation in Bangalore, India in 2015.