In a boost to the quest for sustainable development in the country, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham (Amrita) has been awarded a UNESCO Chair for “Experiential Learning for Sustainable Innovation & Development.”
Through this Chair, the university will develop a comprehensive framework for academic engagement to build sustainable communities by designing a curriculum based on experiential learning. This curriculum will enable the academic community to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to implement sustainable solutions among vulnerable and rural communities.
The Chair will be held by Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham for the next four years under the leadership of Dr. Maneesha Sudheer, the Dean of the University’s International Programmes and Director of its Centre for Wireless Networks & Applications.
Said Dr. Maneesha Sudheer: “This is the second UNESCO Chair awarded to Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham in the past four years after it received India’s first-ever UNESCO Chair on Gender Equality & Women’s Empowerment. It is a great privilege for us to have achieved this recognition once again. Our much-acclaimed experiential learning program, Live-in-Labs, was conceptualized by our Chancellor, Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, whose vision for Amrita has always included compassion-driven research and sustainable development. Over the years, Live-in-Labs has contributed towards sustainable development of rural communities across 21 states in India. This work led to our University being allotted this prestigious UNESCO Chair.
We will now be able to take our experiential learning concept to the entire world in collaboration with other UNESCO Chairs and universities across the globe. Through the Chair, Amrita would develop an experiential learning framework to enable an understanding of the challenges faced by members of remote communities, and design sustainable solutions in collaboration with them.”
As a UNESCO Chair, Amrita becomes part of more than 700 educational institutions that share knowledge and expertise to improve their educational and research capacities. The activities Amrita will conduct as the UNESCO Chair will include PG teaching programs (including Joint Ph.D., Double Ph.D. and dual Masters programs), short-term certificate courses, research (including a seed-grant program for students and faculty), conferences, scholarships, and installation of model labs to check the practicality of solutions for sustainable development before they are implemented in communities.
As an extension of Live-in-Labs (which is offered as a short-term program and taken by UG and PG students), Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham has announced 100 E4LIFE fully funded International PhD fellowships. The aim is to accelerate the work related to sustainable development of over 100 villages that the university has adopted across India. The University will fund a total of 100 international and Indian students and help them earn a PhD degree in Sustainable Development. The university is all set to receive the first group of 60 PhD students soon, out of which 45 are international candidates.
Said Dr. Maneesha Sudheer: “This Chair and the work we will do under it are important because challenges to modern development are rising due to lack of access to basic resources like energy, water, education, climate change, lack of resilience when struck by disasters, etc. Despite the advancements made in Science and Technology, simple and basic necessities are still not being met for a majority of the population across the world. It is about time to think how the contributions of high-end research translate to those belonging to the vulnerable sections.”
Amrita started Live-in-Labs in 2013 under the guidance of its Chancellor Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi to expose students to the difficulties faced by India’s rural communities. The idea is, if students are taken to live in such communities for a period of time, they will be inspired to better understand the villagers’ problems and work with them to innovate sustainable solutions.
In collaboration with the Mata Amritanandamayi Math, Live-in-Labs works with 101 villages throughout India where it has implemented over 150 projects, benefitting more than two-lakh people. Over 400 international students from more than 40 international partner universities have participated in this program thus far.
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