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Sustainable Development Practice in India
Bangalore, India (Outgoing Program)
Program Terms:
Program Terms: Fall
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Restrictions: Gustavus applicants only
Budget Sheets Fall
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Dates / Deadlines:
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Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Fall 2019 03/01/2019 ** Rolling Admission TBA TBA

** Indicates rolling admission application process. Applicants will be immediately notified of acceptance into this program and be able to complete post-decision materials prior to the term's application deadline.
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Fact Sheet:
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Program Provider:
Gustavus Adolphus College
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Program Term(s):
Semester only
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Minimum GPA:
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Language of Instruction:
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Housing Options:
Residence Hall
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Areas of Study:
Anthropology, Asian Studies, Buddism, Cultural Studies, Development, Environmental Studies, Experiential Education, Gender Studies, Human Rights, International Studies, Peace & Conflict Studies, Peace Studies, Religion/Theology, Service Learning, Social Entrepreneurship, Social Justice, Sustainability, Sustainable Development Program Design: Block Scheduling, Faculty led, Group based, Set Curriculum, Study Center, Theme based
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Additional Program Options:
Community Service, Field Study, Internship, Service Learning
Program Description:
Program Description:

Sustainable Development Practice in India (Fall Semester only)

Visthar campus
Stone bench discussion circle on the Visthar campus

Overview. This fall semester program is designed to allow students to benefit from a deeply immersive, interactive, community-learning experience in India. The program includes three seminar courses that address themes related to sustainability, democracy, peace, and social justice in India, and a fourth experiential course (internship) that allows students to put some of their learning into practice.

This is the 'flagship' Gustavus program in India, and it has been around, in one form or another, for about 25 years. The program is operated as a partnership between Gustavus, Concordia College (Moorhead, MN), and an Indian nonprofit organization known as Visthar. Located in the semi-rural outskirts of Bangalore, Visthar has a rich history of involvement in community-based advocacy as well as transformative education with a strong link to the international academic community. In addition, the Visthar campus is a dedicated eco-sanctuary that provides a tranquil respite from the chaotic urban scene in Bangalore.

This program is most well-suited for Gusties who care deeply about one or more of these core program values:

  • peace and conflict resolution
  • social justice (for people of all backgrounds)
  • economic stability and sustainability
  • ecological stability and sustainability
  • the challenge of developing new enterprises and boosting people's incomes in ways that are culturally and geographically appropriate as well as sustainable
  • community learning (shared, collaborative approaches to learning)
  • inter-religious dialogue and understanding
  • intercultural and inter-linguistic dialogue and understanding
  • shifting our political, economic, social, and other paradigms to support the values listed above.

Given these key themes, the program is ideal for students who are majoring or minoring in fields such as peace studies, anthropology/sociology, economics, management, the arts, women's/gender/sexuality studies, religion, theatre for social justice, environmental studies, education, nursing, philosophy, and related areas. The program is open to all eligible students, however, and it can serve to meet two general-education requirements as well.

The program consists of four courses (4 Gustavus credits, or 16 semester credits), including:

  • IDS 243 Earth Care and Adaptation (1 course; meets the GLOBL requirement)
  • IDS 245 Religion, Ethics, and Social Change (1 course)
  • IDS 246 Human Rights and Economic Justice (1 course; meets the SOSCI requirement)
  • IDS XXX Community Learning Capstone Project (1 course): students are responsible for discussing possible major or minor applicability of this project course with their departmental advisors
Michael Johnson

Faculty Leader. Michael Johnson is an instructor of religion at Concordia College in Moorhead. If you would like to get in touch with him, his email address is

  • This program includes 4 courses, one of which is an experiential capstone project course.
  • Key program themes include social and economic justice, sustainability, global citizenship, and fostering community, including through learning communities.
  • The program is modular, allowing you to focus on one of the four courses at a time.
  • The internship component is a Community Learning Internship in which small groups of students will work collaboratively on a project that has been requested by an Indian nonprofit, business, or other organization. Participants will focus on this project full-time for three weeks, followed by a week of reflection and discussion.
  • Participants live on the campus of a nonprofit focused on transformative education that is also an eco-sanctuary.
  • The program includes approximately three long (overnight) excursions to other states in India as well as day excursions in and around Bangalore.
  • The program is led by a professor from Gustavus in odd-numbered years, and by a professor from Concordia in even-numbered years. However, both Gusties and Cobbers are welcome to join the program in any year that fits their individual schedules, and the curriculum is the same each year.
Bangalore (official name: Bengaluru) is a city of 8.5 million located in Karnataka state, which is known as the Silicon Valley of India. It is also home to many colleges and research centers and is the fastest growing major metropolitan area in India. Major languages spoken in the city include chief regional language Kannada as well as English, Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, and Telugu. The city showcases every aspect of Indian life, from wealthy, gated enclaves to middle-class homes and vast slums. The city center is crowded, noisy, and riddled with construction projects and a sea of cars, motorbikes, and auto-rickshaws (small taxi-like vehicles, often with three wheels). Dogs, monkeys, and cows roam freely, even crossing city streets. Outposts of global corporations have offices or shopping or dining outlets next to local shops with barely functioning infrastructure. Everything in the world is happening somewhere in Bangalore at any given moment, and that makes it an exciting and challenging destination in which to think about sustainability and social justice.

Visthar is a six-acre campus in the semi-rural outskirts of Bangalore. It is also an eco-sanctuary that boasts lush greenery and every kind of animal and insect life from lizards to butterflies, and millipedes to birds of an unimaginable diversity. The gated campus includes student/visitor residence halls, smaller cabins, classroom facilities, a modest library, an enclosed (screened) dining hall, open-air meeting spaces, and the facilities for other projects of the nonprofit, which include an herbal garden, organic farming areas, water harvesting and recycling initiatives, animal husbandry projects, the recycled paper unit, and terracotta design and production. (Note that interested students may be able to volunteer for some of these initiatives during free time.)

Old well at Visthar Lily pad pool

Academic Calendar.
Exact dates for the fall semester 2018 program have not been set yet, but we anticipate that students will be in India from late August to mid-December. Students meet at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport and travel to India as a group.

There will also be a one-week fall break during which students may travel to other parts of India (in groups of three or larger) or remain at Visthar and explore Bangalore. Accommodations and meals for the Fall Break are not included in the program fee.

Visthar bunks

Accommodation. While at Visthar, students live in shared rooms (with en suite bathrooms) in residence halls. Most rooms are doubles (two students). The rooms are equipped with small desks, two beds with canopy bars and mosquito netting, and a bathroom with toilet, bidet wand, sink, and open shower area with shower buckets (there is not usually enough water pressure to make the shower heads function). The accommodations are adequate but a little spartan by U.S. standards, so participating students should expect to make some adjustments to life on an eco-sanctuary in India. Meals are provided in the dining hall, and most of the items served are Indian-style dishes (Indian breakfast dishes, Indian curries, Indian breads, rice dishes, fruits and vegetables including some grown at Visthar, etc.). Minimal meat is served (usually chicken or fish), and not at every meal. Unlike a lot of programs with meals included, this program works very well for vegetarian students.

Program Costs. The program fee for fall 2018 is still being determined. It will be available by the end of fall semester 2017, if not before.

Eligibility. This program is open to all admitted Gustavus students who are in good academic standing. There are no formal prerequisites.

Application Deadline. The deadline for Gustavus applications is March 1, 2018. However, students from both Concordia and Gustavus are accepted on a rolling basis as applications are completed, and there are limited spots in the program. For this reason, students who are serious about this program are encouraged to apply and complete the entire initial application (including getting their recommendations) as soon as the decision to participate has been made.

Entry visas. All students (except Indian nationals) will need to apply for a visa in order to participate in this program. Details will be provided by the program coordinator approximately four months before the program begins. All students are encouraged to apply for or renew passports as soon as they know that they plan to participate. Passports must be valid until at least the end of June of the year after the program (e.g., June 2019 for the fall 2018 program).

More info. Students with specific questions are encouraged to seek advising or to send quick questions by email to the program coordinator (check the advising page linked here to find the current coordinator).

Please note: The information in this e-brochure is subject to change.

Group pose

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