• Sumeeta Gawande

Drs. Briju Thankachan and Betsy Briju - Dedicating Their Lives to Help the Lives of Others

Updated: Feb 8

Updated 11-9-2021: Drs. Briju and Betsy have arrived in Umarkhed and are settling into their new home!



Dr. Briju and Dr. Betsy are two names known to many at Ohio University and GSG College in Umarkhed, India.


As the Director of Curriculum and Assessment Design and Improvement at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Briju developed the Instructional Decisions Academy. In addition, Dr. Briju designed online and hybrid courses for the School of Nursing. As an adjunct professor, Dr. Briju taught Advanced Instructional Design and Technology Application. He served as the president of the International Division of Association for Educational Communications and Technology. Since 2014, he has brought his experience and knowledge to SESA and lead the implantation of instructional technologies at GSG College.

Dr. Betsy earned her PhD in Molecular Biology. As a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Environment and Plant Biology at Ohio University, Dr. Betsy taught undergraduate and graduate level courses. She was given an honorable mention in Science Magazine and in 2011 was given a certificate of meritorious service for mentoring high school students working on projects for the Botanical Society of America.



A New Home

Now, their respective careers in academia have led both to pursue a new adventure: moving their family to Umarkhed, India, dedicating their lives to help the lives of others. Drs. Briju, Betsy and their kids arrived in Umarkhed during the sugar cane harvest and chick-pea-planting. They've settled in and are ready to begin the next chapter in their lives.




For the last 20 years, over 300,000 farmers have ended their lives in India. The epicenter

Sugar Cane Harvest

of farmer suicide is in eastern Maharashtra, where SESA has been working since 1992 to provide educational opportunities for farmers and their families. Farmer suicides continue to increase, and a recent World Bank report predicted that climate change and drought will only worsen living conditions in eastern Maharashtra.



SESA has teamed up with GSG College and international experts to create a vision for change – the Maati-Paani-Asha (Soil-Water-Hope) vision. This center will build human and environmental resilience in the region by creating a hub for regenerative farming.


“Umarkhed is the suicide belt of India,” said Dr. Betsy. “The majority of the population are farmers and so many are choosing to give up their lives in an attempt to better things for their families.”


New Neighbors

Drs. Briju and Betsy will lead the MPA Center and work to transform the agricultural foundation in the region so that farmers and the environment are nourished and not depleted, and the community is resilient and thriving despite global warming and drought. But this will not be an easy endeavor.


“I hope that by being there, it will make it easier to overcome the many obstacles we face in working with farmers to make these changes,” said Dr. Betsy. “Farming is a generational lifestyle, and it is difficult to convince farmers to change from what they’ve always known.”


Dr. Briju will also bring his expertise in curriculum design and instructional methods to establish a Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence at GSG College.


"I believe that establishing a ‘Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence’ would help faculty to be trained in evidence-based instructional strategies,” said Dr. Briju. “Because of the faculty training, students will be able to learn abstract concepts and problem-solving skills much better and faster and will be prepared to meet the demands of the 21st century.”


SESA wishes Drs. Briju and Betsy a safe journey as they embark on this new adventure. We look forward to working closely with them as they help us implement our Maati-Paani-Asha initiative on the ground in Umarkhed.




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