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Chittagong Hill Tract Children’s Books Part of HGSE Commencement Tradition


Maung Nyeu reads one of his books at the Mittal Institute Spring Art Exhibition


For nearly twenty years, new graduates of the Harvard Graduate School of Education have been carrying and waving children’s books as they enter Harvard Yard for the commencement ceremony. This tradition emphasizes the importance of children’s literacy and inclusion, as the books represent different cultures from around the world.

This year amongst copies of The Hungry Caterpillar and A Snowy Day will be several copies of Harvard Doctoral Candidate Maung Nyeu’s children’s books. These multilingual books are based on stories collected by children of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), Bangladesh. The books contain moral and civic values and the wisdom of generations and help revitalize endangered languages and revive vanishing cultures.

Nyeu’s project is possible due to funding from the Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute for his travels to mountain villages of Bangladesh to visit schools and collect stories.  The funding enabled him to publish and distribute books in Bangladesh. So far, he has distributed over 6,000 of these books to children who never owned a children’s book in their lives. With the support of a Mittal Institute summer grant, he plans to return to CHT and distribute 4,000 more copies. 


Links to other articles about Nyeu’s books:

“People Making Difference” in Christian Science Monitor 
 The Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute featured story “Saving a culture, book by book”
National Geographic Society: First Person: Save a Language, Save a Culture.
Stories Matter: Harvard Graduate School of Education
Nyeu’s Website


The Jana Swasthya Project at the 2015 Kumbh Mela

Three years ago, we launched the Jana Swasthya Project at the 2015 Kumbh Mela in Nashik and Trimbakeshwar, India. 

The Jana Swasthya Project was comprised of two components: a large-scale digital disease surveillance program, EMcounter, and a mass screening program for oral health, hypertension and diabetes offered to pilgrims, sadhus, security forces, and all visitors in Nashik and Trimbakeshwar.

You can learn more about this amazing project at this specially-created website:




Q+A: Building Relationships as a Documentary Photographer



. He recently gave a presentation titled “Cha Chakra: Tea Tales of Bangladesh,” chaired by Professor Sugata Bose with commentary by Curator Alison Nordström, in which he displayed his long-term documentary photography research project on tea industry. The project sheds light on the plight of the tea garden workers of Bangladesh who are among the lowest paid and most vulnerable laborers in the world, yet are strangely invisible to the global media. Currently, the project concentrates on labor rights and conditions within Bangladesh’s tea industry, which are a direct result of a long history of colonialism and oppression. This project aims to collect the undocumented history of the global tea industry through photography, oral histories, and archival materials.


His other ongoing projects include Rohingya: The Stateless People, The Fantasy Is More Filmic than Fictional: Bangladesh Film Industry and Life in Progress: People Living with HIV.


Before his return to Bangladesh, we talked with him about his art practice and time here at Harvard.


What experiences motivated you to work on themes surrounding social justice?

I work with various art mediums to explore what is happening around the world. When I was a University student, I was looking for avenues to express my thoughts about what was happening around me. During that time, I worked on films, documentaries and was involved in different cultural movements.  I realized that photography was the best medium to express both my individual views as well as speak about the experiences of larger groups of people. 

I started working on social justice issues as a journalist. For instance, I first went to the Tea Gardens on an assignment to cover the tea workers’ movement. I soon realized that the plight of the tea workers is a deeply rooted issue that the media cannot adequately cover in a few journalistic reports, so I decided to work on the project long-term.


What has been your approach to photographing your subjects?

The logical approach is to spend time with the people I photograph. For example, I stayed in the Tea Gardens with the workers for many days. I talked to them and got to know their stories. I believe that collecting testimonies and oral histories are an important part of the work. One challenge is that people will always see me as “other” because I see them from outside, and vice versa.


What are some of the strategies that you use to connect to your subjects?

As a student, I studied research methods. However, over time I have developed an intuitive approach. For example, I drink tea with the tea workers to spend time with them and get to know them. My intention is not to intervene in their lives, but rather to talk to them and invite them to ask me what I want and why I am there. It is important for me to become friends with the people I work with because otherwise, it is tough to get stories from people. As a storyteller, I believe everybody has a story to tell, however, collecting the stories is not always easy. People have to trust me and that requires time to build the relationship.


What is the rationale behind having multiple ongoing projects?

For me, as a documentary photographer, it is important to work on subjects for a longer period. I see most of my works as long-term projects. It is tough to wrap up a story within a short span of time.


What has been your experience at Harvard?

It has been an incredible opportunity to be able to access Harvard’s library and museum resources as a researcher and to dig deeper into my studies. It is difficult for me to access comparable archives and libraries as a freelancer. Additionally, Cambridge is a cosmopolitan area where I have met people from different areas of the world. It has been fascinating and helpful for my journey as an artist.


How did your seminar go?

The seminar brought together people from different professions as well as students, faculty, and representatives from the Bangladeshi community. Even the person I am subletting from came! It was inspiring to present my work in front of such a diverse audience. The audience was asking incisive questions, so it was a very good learning experience for me. It was a collective effort to organize the seminar, and I am grateful to Professor Sugata Bose, Curator Alison Nordstrom, Aniket De (Ph.D. student in history) and the Mittal Institute staff.


Seed for Change 2018 Winners Announced

Congratulations to Green Screen and Umbulizer, the winners of our 2018 Seed for Change Competition.


Umbulizer, the winner of Seed for Change Pakistan, will receive $15,000 to further develop a reliable, low-cost, and portable device that can provide continuous ventilation to patients in resource limited healthcare settings. Team members include Shaheer Ahmed Piracha, Umbulizer, Project Lead; Hamza Ali Khan, Harvard Business School, Master in Business Administration Candidate; and Sanchay Gupta, Harvard Medical School, MD Candidate.





Green Screen, winner of Seed for Change India, will receive $40,000 to produce a zero-electricity, modular ventilation panel made from an agricultural waste byproduct and designed for the slums of New Delhi, India. Team members include Gina Ciancone, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Master in Urban Planning Candidate, Master in Architecture Candidate; Ramya Pinnamaneni, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Master of Public Health Candidate; David Costanza, Rice University, Technology Fellow; and Dan Cusworth, Earth and Planetary Sciences Department.





Other finalists:


Saving 9: Saving 9’s motto is ‘You don’t need to be a doctor to saves lives ‘, and the name of our organization comes from the idiom ‘A stitch in time saves 9’. We strongly believe that anyone can learn basic first aid, and hence gain the ability to support a casualty sufficiently during an emergency until they can reach the hospital. It is our organization’s mission to create a ‘safety net’ of first aid ‘literate’ citizens and robust emergency response systems. Our project is focused on creating an emergency response system in a rural village, Pind Begwal.

Team members: Usama Javed Mirza, Saving 9, Co-founder and Program Manager; Muhammad Ovais Siddiqui, Saving 9, Co-founder and Program Finance Head; Zainab Zaheer, Saving 9, Program Coordinator and PR Head; Raissa Chughtai, Harvard College Class of 2021; Saving 9, Program Coordinator and Economic Analyst

Xyal Water: Xyla Water is a water filter company that builds filters based on plant tissues. The purification ability of xylem tissues was discovered and tested by Professor Karnik at MIT. We formed a research collaboration with him to commercialize and make a product out of this filter.

Team members: Syed Waqar Ali Shah, Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, PhD Candidate in Mathematics; Iqra Nadeem, MIT, Master of Science Candidate in Technology and Policy Program ; Diane Delava, Academics for Development LLN, CEO; Ali Mannan Tirmizi, Lahore University of Management Sciences Class of 2018



Pre-Texts: Pre-Texts is an effective and efficient pedagogy that acknowledges local strengths that can help promote development in literacy, innovation, and citizenship. The Pre-Texts protocol can raise literacy in low-resource communities thanks to local arts and languages that serve to interpret English language curricular material.

Team members: Anshul Kumar, Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, PhD Candidate in Sociology; Jahnvi Singh, Pre-Texts Facilitator and Leaning Design Consultant; Polly Lauer, Research Coordinator for Pre-Texts

Parivartan: In India, rates of child diarrheal deaths continue to be alarmingly high despite overall improvements throughout the world. Treatment for often preventable cases of diarrheal illness is very costly for families in India and more efforts should be made to promote behaviors that prevent incidence of diarrhea in children. Hand washing with soap is a cost-effective means of preventing illnesses caused by bacterial contamination, as it decreases person-to-person transmission. However, India is one of the most water-challenged countries in the world. Project Parivartan aims to mitigate both the problems of water scarcity and absence of hand hygiene practices by introducing alcohol based hand sanitizer (ABHS) to 10 villages in the town of Palghar in Northern Maharashtra, a water-deprived tribal region of India. The use of ABHS as a substitute for hand washing provides a simple and cost-effective means of reducing the spread of diarrheal and respiratory diseases at schools in water scarce areas.

Team members: Alastair Fung, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Master of Public Health Candidate in Global Health Candidate; Nithin Kondapuram, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Master of Science Candidate in Epidemiology; Harvard Medical School, Research Assistant; Sujata Saunik, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Takemi Fellow; Vivian Zhang, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Master of Public Health Candidate

Q + A: Advancing Academic Study of Buddhism in Nepal


Leonard van der Kuijp introduces a speaker at the program’s conference in Nepal.



Last year, The Mittal Institute launched the Nepal Studies Program, with generous support from Jeffrey M. Smith, who is a Principal Shareholder with the international law firm of Greenberg Traurig, LLP. The three-year program focuses on a different faculty-led topic of interest each year and engages with scholars and practitioners both on the ground in Nepal and in Cambridge.

The Buddhism in Nepal, Past and Present Conference was held on January 5, 2018, and was led by Leonard W.J. van der Kuijp, Professor of Tibetan and Himalayan Studies. The conference explored the spread and development of Buddhism in the India-Nepal-Tibet corridor, based on medieval documents and modern practice. The program will also hold a conference at Harvard on Monday, May 7. Before the event, The Mittal Institute asked van der Kuijp about the event and the Nepal Studies Program. 


How did you become involved in the Nepal Studies Program?

It all came together with the generosity of donor Jeffrey M. Smith. He asked me if I wanted to get involved with the Nepal Studies Program because I teach Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhist Studies. Furthermore, Nepal is a very important place to me, since I have lived and worked there in the past.  


Can you talk about the importance of Harvard having something like the Nepal Studies Program?

Academia has historically marginalized Nepal. Before this program, there has never been Nepal Studies Program at Harvard despite the fascinating social history of Buddhism in Nepal, especially esoteric Buddhism.

The Kathmandu Valley houses both public and private libraries, as well as countless Buddhist manuscripts that are no longer available in India because they were destroyed or fell into disuse and disappeared. In that sense, Nepalese Buddhism played a very important role in the preservation and the continued development of late Indian Buddhism. Nepal also functioned as an important conduit of Buddhism to the Tibetan area, China, Mongolia, Korea and Japan. Nepal is important in the study of Buddhism – despite being overshadowed by interest in the Indian subcontinent, China or Tibet.


Can you tell me about the Nepal Conference?

The Buddhism in Nepal, Past and Present Conference was organized by the local people at a private conference center Yalamaya, Kathmandu. The funding from the Mittal Institute made it possible for us to travel to Nepal, to rent the space, and pay for miscellaneous expenses.

The first conference was geared towards a Nepalese audience, whereas the upcoming one is geared towards a wider audience with a mix of both Americans, Nepalese and others. There is a very vibrant Nepalese community here in the Boston area.


How do you choose the speakers and subject matter? 

The overarching themes are Buddhism in Nepal based on how the Newar community perceived it and the Tibetan-Nepal interface. At the conference, there were three academics from the United States and three Nepalese scholars. Nirmal Man Tuladhar spoke about the linguistic interfaces between Nepalese and Tibetan Buddhists.

Sidhartha Tuladhar, a senior researcher from the Newar community of traders in Nepal shared his archival work. His family has traded with Tibet for 250 years and he has a very large archive of documents and photographs. The final speaker was Naresh Man Bajracharya, a well-known Buddhist priest, who discussed the foundation of Lumbini University and the Buddhist monastery in Ngubeni.  

One speaker was my former student, Kurtis R. Schaeffer, who is now the Chairman of the University of Virginia’s Religion Department. He spoke about the 18th century itinerant yogi in Northern Nepal who wondered whether he was really Tibetan or Nepalese. It became a very interesting project where he was constantly wondering about his own ethnicity because his feet were firmly planted in Tibetan Buddhism, but he was from the Northern Himalayas.

My other colleague from the College of the Holy Cross, Todd T. Lewis, is an anthropologist that specializes in religion. He spoke about the religious life of one area in Kathmandu where he lived and did field work for five years.


What is the importance of the conference?

The conference was important because it made it clear that Harvard is paying attention to what is happening around Buddhism in Nepal. There were not only Nepalese there but there were also foreigners there; there was a lot of enthusiasm in the room. Additionally, these types of programs help establish academic and research partnerships between Harvard and local scholars in Nepal. 


Ten Minutes with Professor Vikram Patel

In the developing world, 95% of people with a clinically significant mental illness receive no treatment at all, and it costs the global economy an estimated trillion dollars a year.

Vikram Patel is a distinguished Indian psychiatrist and The Pershing Square Professor of Global Health at Harvard Medical School. The Mittal Institute’s Hasit Shah caught up with him before our 2018 Symposium, where Professor Patel was one of the key speakers.

The Mittal Institute Hosts Open House on Fostering Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries

The Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute (SAI), Harvard University conducted an open house on “Trust and Creativity, Fostering Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries,” the last in a series of events planned to mark the official opening of its India headquarters in Delhi.

Tarun Khanna, Director, The Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute, Harvard University and Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor Harvard Business School, spoke about various aspects of encouraging entrepreneurship in developing nations. Shri Jayant Sinha, Minister of State for Civil Aviation and a former investment fund manager and management consultant, took part in the discussion and moderated the question-and-answer session. The Mittal Institute’s India office marks a new era of Harvard University’s direct engagement with the region.

Tarun Khanna, Mittal Institute Director, chats with Jayant Sinha, Minister of State for Civil Aviation at an open house in New Delhi.


For more than two decades at Harvard Business School, Prof. Khanna has sought to study the drivers of entrepreneurship in emerging markets as a means of economic and social development. He spoke about the Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute’s commitment to studying and researching all aspects of South Asia, alongside its partnership with major Indian institutions in arts, social entrepreneurship, and life sciences. Mr. Sinha spoke about how entrepreneurship can improve economic growth of developing nations like India.

“We strongly believe that encouraging entrepreneurship will help our nation develop by opening multiple avenues for younger generations,” Khanna said. “The Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute, Harvard University is committed to disseminating knowledge, building capacity, informing policy, and engaging with issues that are shaping South Asia today, by conducting research across the South Asian region. This open house is part of the monthly seminar series planned by the Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute to spur knowledge-sharing amongst thought leaders. I believe these events will encourage a fruitful exchange of views on crucial issues and inform policymaking in a positive way.”

The Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute, Harvard University, is a university-wide research institute at Harvard that engages faculty and students through interdisciplinary programs to advance and deepen the teaching and research on global issues relevant to South Asia. Currently, Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute in India is running programs/research projects in India related to the arts, social science and the pure science. The Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute also serves as a nexus for Harvard’s engagement with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, as well as diaspora populations from these countries.

This article was originally published on EduNews Careers 360. 

Contemporary Pakistani Artist and Academic Continues Traditional Craft

Figure 6. Yogi Mughal Salim Album, ca.1600-1605, Harvard Art Museums


Murad Khan Mumtaz is a painter and a PhD candidate in Art and Architectural History at the University of Virginia. His primary research focuses on devotional portraiture with a special interest in representations of Muslim saints in early modern India.

On April 6th, he gave a talk at The Mittal Institute that discussed sixteenth and early-seventeenth-century album and manuscript paintings made for Muslim patrons.

Before his talk, we chatted with him about his Miniature Portrait training at the Lahore National College of Art, his influences, and journey into traditional musawwari painting. 

How does your art practice inform how you approach your academic research?

As someone trained in the practice of traditional Indian painting, I always look to investigate the processes involved in constructing a work of art. Looking at a seventeenth or eighteenth-century painting, for instance, it is fascinating to see how the paper was prepared, what pigments were used, and how the drawing was built up layer by layer (Fig. 1). Knowledge of the craft can also enhance a stylistic appreciation of an historical artwork, thus helping locate its school and period.



Figure 1. Utka or Vasuka Nayika Kangra, ca.1800, Boston Museum



When did you first begin to practice musawwari painting?

I started learning the technique in Lahore, at the National College of Arts in 2001. At that time, it was the only institution in the world that had a “Miniature Painting Department,” where you could complete your BFA in the traditional medium (Fig. 2). However, I began to realize that the school was teaching an attenuated technique that had been significantly altered during the colonial period.

The ethos of the College is deeply entrenched in modern and postmodern Western-centric canons of art making. As students in the Miniature Painting department, we were encouraged to produce art from within that worldview, rather than looking at our own cultural history, context, and intellectual framework (Fig. 3).

Subsequently, I learned techniques of Pahari painting (painting from the Punjab hills) from an artist who had learned from traditional musawwirs in India. That has given me a far deeper understanding of materials—such as natural pigments—and techniques (Fig. 4). This experience also helped me find links with the historical practice.

Most recently I have been greatly influenced by the masters of Pahari painting, particularly those working in the eighteenth century Basohli and Guler schools of painting (Fig. 7).



Figure 2. National College of Arts Lahore



How has contemporary Miniature Painting practice in Pakistan diverged from the tradition of Indian painting?

For contemporary miniaturists in Pakistan, condensing a traditional methodology into a Western academic system has come with a heavy price; integral material and philosophical practices that were once transmitted organically through the ustad–shagird (the master–disciple) paradigm have been sacrificed. By contrast, musawwirs/chitrehras in India continue to be more rooted in the hereditary, artisanal guild system. However, in India patronage for the art form is rapidly dwindling. The mainstay is primarily the bazaar. 


Could you describe your process of acquiring materials? To what lengths do you have to go to procure some of these rare pigments and other materials?

I get many of the basic pigments, such as vermillion, orpiment, and cinnabar from the old city in Lahore. Others, such as indigo and white can be bought from India. Interestingly, I collected many of the earth pigments, such as ochres, browns, and cadmium yellow while hiking in the mountains in New Mexico. These are the same pigments that are still used by santeros (icon painters) in New Mexico.

There are still families in Rajasthan that make traditional handmade wasli paper, and are the main source for paper. You can also get squirrel-tail-hair brushes from them. Although, one of the first things we were taught as students in Lahore was how to make your own brush using squirrel tail hair.



Figure 3. Karkhana #9 Collaboration between Contemporary Miniaturists, 2003



How do you address what you refer to as the paradoxical messages from the global art economy, which asks for “ethnic” aesthetics but judges by the established European canon? 

In the contemporary art market—which is essentially the product of a Western and Westernizing discourse—there is no space for pluralistic art practices that want to engage with their own intellectual history. Recognizing this fact, I have gradually receded from mainstream art practice.

Contemporary miniaturist practice from Pakistan has been comfortably slotted into a niche that reflects larger trends in the art market. In general, for the last three decades or so, artists hailing from non-white—and especially Muslim countries—are given recognition only if they engage with issues of “identity politics” and cultural satire— particularly those who criticize, subvert, or characturerize their own cultural values.

Within this dominant system, Islamic calligraphy, for instance, or traditional musawwari made for a genuinely devotional function can never be considered as legitimate art forms. In a global context, these artistic expressions are primarily appreciated as historical objects behind glass cages in museums or in the auction house, but are seldom recognized as contemporary art.



Figure 5. Mulla Shah Mughal, ca 1655, Smithsonian



Your talk and recent research explore the significance of the figure of a yogi as an emblem for the spiritual path of Sufism. What led you to explore this aspect of manuscript paintings?

When I started my research in collections around the world, I kept coming across individual folios from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that depicted portraits of local Indian saints: both Muslim and non-Muslim (Fig. 5). That led me to investigate the history of these images, as well as examining their function for early modern Muslim patrons. I realized that in the Indo-Islamic devotional landscape the figure of the yogi—both as a literary topos and as a visual metaphor—played a crucial role (Fig. 6). The image of the yogi still resonates deeply with Indian and Pakistani Muslim audiences as a figure of spiritual longing and detachment from the world.


How do you as an artist preserve tradition while allowing for innovation?

Tradition, which is derived from the Latin trādere, literally means to hand down, give or impart. Therefore, it is not something relegated to history. It is only meaningful as a term if it is living. And the best way to preserve a tradition is through practicing it. Once it is understood as a living system, and not as a static thing of the past to be viewed only in museums and catalogs, then the question of innovation does not even arise.  


Q +A: Shaping Nepal’s Leaders


Building a country’s future is no easy task. Especially since young leaders often need to be coached and given proper opportunities. Even with this challenge, Pukar Malla has spent his career conducting research and developing initiatives to bring self-sustaining entrepreneurship to Nepal. 


Before his focus on leadership, Malla spent time in the private sector — leading technology designs at Intel, AMD, Silicon Graphics and a Silicon Valley start-up, and secured two U.S. patents. While working as a senior innovation policy specialist at the World Bank, he supported the governments of India, China, and Ghana to promote innovation and inclusive growth.


As a former senior research fellow at the Harvard Center for Public Leadership, he investigated and piloted frameworks for innovators to lead change within communities. After conducting research on leadership models, Malla got more insight by applying his theoretical models in Nepal. To further his dream of prosperous futures for Nepali youth, he founded Daayitwa, a Nepal-based social enterprise that nurtures leaders who collectively transform societal challenges into opportunities through entrepreneurship and governance innovations. He is also the founder and executive coach at the Nepal Leadership Academy, which nurtures leadership in youth and public leaders for promoting inclusive growth in Nepal. Malla is SAI’s Nepal Programs Director and also serves as a member of the Think Tank at the Ministry of Women, Children, and Social Welfare.  


In an interview with The Mittal Institute, Malla discussed his work, curricula, and hopes for Nepal Leadership Academy’s new leadership Trek course.  




Pukar Malla 

What is the philosophy and research that led to the creation of your course Leading from Within?


From my work with Nepalese youth, I saw that young people have significant talent, passion, and energy to bring change. However, many young people, despite their best intentions and efforts, are unable to create a sustained impact. I joined the Harvard Center for Public Leadership as a Senior Research Fellow in 2015 and worked with Marshall Ganz and Ron Heifetz for 18 months to uncover these underlying issues and how youth leadership can be nurtured.


During my research, I noticed that there were two main trends. First, authority holders, generally in the older population, fear their loss of power and marginalize the youth. Second, young people want immediate change and resort to taking quick actions, without fully respecting the socio-political sensitivities. Additionally, youth in developing nations, are a demographic majority, however, they lack positions of authority and their huge potential to lead innovation remains unharnessed.


I began testing some of my research-based learning in the field through leadership pilots in Nepal. Consequently, I came up with a leadership framework for young innovators; Leading from Within was one of the courses that grew out of that framework.



How did you first start to develop your own leadership skills?

I first began developing my leadership skills in high school when I took on some authority positions, however, I was not able to achieve the change I wanted to see. These experiences of failure were extremely painful. I asked myself — why I was failing despite my best intentions and effort. I began to slowly discover that my individual expertise was only going to take me so far and that I needed to learn to work within a team.  I began to develop my leadership skills in order to prepare for the bigger projects I eventually wanted to work on in Nepal.


How does the unique environment of NLA’s leadership trek impact the course? 

During the Trek, the participants have a unique opportunity to reflect on their leadership learnings. The Trek will take participants through various moments — thrilling, peaceful, noisy, compassionate and more. Against these changing backdrops, participants examine their inner journeys through each of the six leadership modules by way of journaling, peer discussions, and conversations with the Coaching Advisors.



What has been the influence of Prof. Marshall Ganz and Prof. Ronald Heifetz on the creation of this course?

Marshall and Ron have had a colossal impact on my life and on this course.  Marshall’s work focuses on community organizing and is rooted in the principles of justice and grassroots actions. Ron’s work focuses on adaptive leadership, with an emphasis on diagnosing adaptive challenges within oneself and/or the system. Many aspects of their work have significantly influenced the design of this course, from theoretical to implementation perspectives. I am grateful that Marshall and Ron continue to support me in my research and other campaigns in Nepal.



What are some of the most important takeaways that you hope students will leave the course with?

I want some of the key takeaways for the course participants to be:


  1. Listening to oneself: One must understand one’s calling before one can mobilize oneself and others in this uncertain journey towards a shared purpose. Participants will learn about their agency and experience the freedom of choice.
  2. Empathizing with others: Any system includes people that will support you, oppose you, or remain undecided. Knowing their perspectives, not just in a technical sense, but by truly feeling their pain, is critical to understanding the system. Participants will learn to empathize with key system stakeholders and act politically.
  3. Diagnosing adaptive issues:  Understanding the real source of conflict in values, in terms of where participants are and where they need to be is paramount to creating action options.  Participants will learn methods to analyze adaptive problems.
  4. Taking collective actions: One must mobilize a team to transform what it has (people) into what it needs (power) to get what it wants (progress). Participants will learn hands-on tools of community organizing.



How does this course assimilate NLA’s learning about adult development and social innovation?

NLA has offered leadership courses to over 250 young social innovators in Nepal and the U.S.  In this process, we have learned how the mental complexity of adults grows as well as about how youth takes creative risks to achieve social impact. Leveraging these course experiences —including the understanding of the capability gaps of youth — NLA has designed the Leading from Within course to make the most optimal use of the three-week Trek experience.



What is the relationship between the Trek and Daayitwa?

The trek is organized by the Nepal Leadership Academy, which is a sister organization of Daayitwa. NLA was once a Leadership Lab program of Daayitwa, and now NLA offers leadership courses to various constituents affiliated with Daayitwa programs, including policy, social, and business entrepreneurs. The course incorporates learnings from previous courses on adaptive leadership, community organizing, governance innovation, and public narrative. Plus, some of the proceeds from this course will go to support Daayitwa’s rural entrepreneurs in gaining improved access to investment opportunities.







The Mittal Institute Hosts Student Research Art Exhibition

Sacred Groves, Prathima Muniyappa

Picture 1 of 13

Sacred Groves, Prathima Muniyappa



On Wednesday, April 4th, the Mittal Institute hosted an opening reception for its Spring Art Exhibition, “Showcasing Research in South Asia Through Visual Arts.” It features 2D and 3D art and artifacts inspired by Harvard students who traveled to South Asia sponsored by Mittal Institute travel grants. The show was curated by Sheliza Jamal (Graduate School of Education) and Neeti Nayak (Graduate School of Design). At the event, we chatted with them about the show. 


How did you get involved with this showcase? 

Neeti: While I was doing my research, I realized that there were a lot of art projects that were tangential to the research that I was doing. However, I couldn’t really talk about them when I was doing my thesis project.  I wanted a way to showcase the arts-based side of my project, and I was sure there were other students who had similar motivations. I chatted with Amy [at SAI] and she liked the idea, and we decided to do something about it.

Sheliza: Amy [at the Mittal Institute] told me about the opportunity for an art show, and I jumped at the chance because I am interested in anything art-related.  


How did you choose the theme “Showcasing Research in South Asia Through Visual Arts”? 

Neeti: I’m working on a degree in master’s in design engineering, and we have a heavy focus on interdisciplinary work. To be interdisciplinary, you have to present your work in a way that is digestible by a lot of disciplines. And that’s why being visual is the most important thing [in bringing it to other audiences].


What was your favorite part of the show? 

Sheliza: The images, pieces of art, and artifacts are all manifestations of research in South Asia. Reading about how [the students] were inspired to take a picture, bring an artifact back, or create an original piece of work, was the most inspiring part of curating the exhibition.

Neeti: My favorite part of the show was working with a co-curator who had a completely different perspective on things. We came together to look at the layout of the show and choose the kind of images that best represent a certain line of research. 


What was the submission process like? 

Sheliza: We emailed the database of Mittal Institute grant recipients, and we asked them to submit an image of either an artifact, a piece of work that they had done, or a photograph they had taken while conducting research in South Asia. They also provided a short description so we would get an idea of their research and what that visit meant to them. We wanted to include as many pieces of art as possible, be inclusive as possible, and keep in mind the different regions. We didn’t want to have everything from one country. We were pleased that the exhibit has pieces from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Nepal.