It’s the rainy season in western India. I arrived in the former garrison hill town of Pune just after midnight to one of those famous monsoon deluges. Having been on the Fulbright Specialist roster for two years waiting for the right project, I accepted an invitation from the Symbiosis School of Liberal Arts (SSLA) to assist them in various tasks related to peacebuilding. I committed to a six-week residency on their newest campus in the Viman Nagar district of Pune. SSLA inhabits the third floor of an enormous building that also houses the graduate program in International Studies and the Law School.
SSLA is but one of the Symbiosis ‘family of schools.’ Started in the 1970s by Prof. Dr. S.B. Mujumdar, Symbiosis has become one of India’s top private university systems. With six campuses spread out all over Pune and other major urban areas of India, it has a vision and expanding capacity to constructively shape India’s future leaders. It is gratifying to find overlap with the values embraced by Elizabethtown College. Among the commonalities are a commitment to a global perspective and service for the greater common good.
Anita Patankar, the Director of SSLA, is a visionary educator who sees liberal arts as an excellent vehicle to prepare young leaders to face the complex challenges of the current age. Indeed, as we have chatted the last few days, the similarities in our philosophies of education make me feel very much at home. Individualized attention and mentoring to students, interactive activities to make learning fun and an assumption about the ‘connectedness of things’ are all pedagogical approaches that affirm my saying ‘yes’ to SSLA. Classes start Monday and I am excited for the coming classroom interaction.