FLAME University


The latest happenings in the FLAME Community

The Global Liberal Arts Alliance is a partnership of 29 liberal arts colleges and universities located in 17 nations. It is a leading platform for educational leaders, faculty members, administrators to share expertise, experiences, ideas, and opportunities for providing a high quality liberal arts and sciences education. FLAME University is a part of the GLAA, and I was fortunate enough to recently participate in a conference organised by them at the Centre for Civic Engagement at Kalamazoo College in Michigan. Titled ‘Civic Engagement & the Liberal Arts: Local Practice, Global Impact’, the conference was held from 23rd-25th October, 2016. The most urgent problems today are interconnected and global in nature. Civic engagement includes course based and co-curricular experiences that enrich the learning, theoretical understanding, skills, and reflection of students; it allows them to actively engage with the community through avenues like volunteering and advocacy, pioneer for social change and contribute towards creating a sustainable and just society. The purpose of the conference was to share and learn from the work done by the different institutions as well as explore the potential for creating cross national collaborations.

Prof. Viraj Shah and I presented the Discover India Program as a case study of Living Heritage: Connecting with Communities. We highlighted the main objectives, structure and outcomes of DIP, presenting various examples through audio-visual means. I spoke about my group’s project on the Saraswati Veena, emphasising on the main academic and experiential learnings from the program, and its focus on not just external but also internal exploration and reflection. The feedback was extremely positive, with everybody appreciating the vibrancy and uniqueness of the program, its role in archiving essential pockets of our culture, and bringing students in active touch with their contemporary heritage.

With over 80 participants, the conference saw a diverse mix of individuals indulging in active interaction and conversation. It was enriching to see the diversity of initiatives and programs that colleges were involved in. Right from creating an organic garden for the community in the US, tutoring elementary school children, translating for foreign nationals, opening a day care for the children of labourers in Ghana, building schools for refugees in Beirut, feeding and teaching escaped kidnapped victims in Nigeria, to opening counselling centres in Greece, each program was suited to meet the needs of its own community and situation. Like someone wisely said, who are we to dictate what should be done and what the people need. We ask the community what they want, what they require, and we act accordingly. Through experiences of faculty who designed and conduct these programs and voices of students who have actually experienced them, we got a holistic view of the program and its impact on the institution, the students, and the wider community.

Questions about the challenges, adaptability, and sustainability of such initiatives were abundant, along with reflection on the values, skills, and knowledge learnt. The scope for future partnerships was recognised, with ideas for new programs blooming. For me personally, the experience was incredible and very inspiring. It was heartening to see how students all over the world are so passionate about making tangible differences and how eager everybody was to listen to each other and offer suggestions for improvement. Every session was left with ideas for what can be taken back and applied at home. With fall and Halloween around the corner, we were exposed to quintessential American culture as we enjoyed the hospitality of our hosts and the small beautiful city of Kalamazoo. 

Medha Aurora | Undergraduate Student - FLAME University | Economics Major