Ohio Unversity's Partnership with GSG College
The partnership emerged from SESA's establishment of the Ram and Sushila Gawande India Endowment at Ohio University in 2012, which provides funding for an Ohio University faculty or student, on average one per year, to travel to GSG College to study, teach, conduct research, or provide services. After the Endowment was created, SESA facilitated a formal partnership between Ohio University and GSG College that was publicly announced in 2013. SESA has continued to liaison with the two institutions to stimulate and support mutually beneficial projects both within and beyond the Endowment.
When Dr. Briju Thankachan, (then a PhD student, now Director of Curriculum and Assessment Design and Improvement in the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine and Technology Advisor at GSG College) received the first grant from the Ram and Sushila Gawande India Endowment in 2013, GSG College’s computers were outdated and suffering from operating issues. Other than in the computer science department, very few faculty and students were using computers, internet or other technology, and many were intimidated by technology. Internet service was barely available, often too slow to load even a single website, and regularly out of service. The internet infrastructure was composed of old wiring regularly damaged by heavy rains and neglect, and worse, there were no other internet infrastructure options available in that rural geographic region.
Dr. Thankachan introduced active learning strategies such as Team Based Learning for GSG faculty in 2016. When the COVID-19 crisis arrived, GSG was ready. Faculty and students who never had email and never used the internet, now are continuing their education online, creating videos, group chatting, holding video conferences, and more. 60% of GSG students are engaged in online learning, and our work continues, as we seek to reach the remaining 40% who don’t have internet access in their homes during the pandemic.
GSG College is now a digital campus, through the efforts of Dr. Thankachan which continue through today and of SaiJeevan Reddy Devireddy (2105 grant recipient). It has computers throughout the campus which, for the first time, are available to all faculty, staff and students, are networked together under one system, and are fully operational with up-to-date operating systems. Internet is available throughout campus via hardwiring and Wi-Fi, using a new infrastructure that can withstand extreme weather conditions and neglect for a 20+ year lifespan, and internet speeds are 16 times faster than before.
Since 2015, students from rural Ohio and students from rural India have connected and learned from each other through the Study Abroad program established by Dr. Collins and Dr. Julie White (Associate Professor of Political Science and a core faculty in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies), along with OU’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program and the Classics and World Religions department.
In 2018, Dr. Yegan Pillay (Associate Professor of Counseling and Higher Education) leveraged his experience as a counseling psychologist and a licensed professional clinical counselor to assess GSG College’s existing counseling needs and to conduct informal counseling sessions with students. Dr. Pillay trained faculty and students in stress management skills and Mind Mapping. Dr. Pillay plans to continue working with GSG to build its capacity to address the mental health challenges faced by the GSG community, which is located in a region facing high levels of suicide, hunger, and poverty.
This year, Dr. Daniel Che (Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering) is studying the water crisis in GSG’s surrounding region, a region with increasing drought and temperatures now reaching 114⁰F/45⁰C. Climate change is forecast to worsen the challenges already facing the region, unless something changes for the better. Dr. Che is helping us understand the problem better, so that we make something change for the better.
English as a Second Language
In 2016, Dr. Matthew Rosen (Assistant Professor of Anthropology) hosted workshops with GSG faulty and students to increase their familiarity with both technology-enabled education and speaking English as a Second Language. In 2019, Dr. Greg Kessler (Professor of Instructional Technology) conducted a needs assessment of GSG’s methods of teaching English, conducted workshops on contemporary approaches to teaching English, and laid the groundwork for continued collaboration between OU and GSG to enhance GSG’s ESL program. Dr. Kessler shared that almost 15 years ago, he spoke with the late Ram Gawande about working with GSG, but a project was not possible at the time. We are delighted that Dr. Gawande's dream has now come true.