Cornell University

International Programs

117 Ives Hall, 607-254-7255


October 25 2011

Dr. R. Balasubramaniam Visits Cornell

SAM_3596With seats filled and standing room only, students who worked with SVYM this past summer, welcomed Dr. R. Balasubramaniam (aka Dr. Balu) with a Fall floral arrangement, as a thank you for spending time to talk to students.  ILR’s Associate Dean, Joe Grasso, welcomed Dr. Balu with a story about how he met Dr. Balu, as a Tata Fellow at Harvard, two years ago.  Before Dr. Balu spoke, a CNN video of him and his organization, SVYM, introduced and highlighted Balu’s work with SVYM.   SVYM is a non-profit organization that helps disenfranchised tribal communities in Southern India through community development services.  Dr. Balu founded the organization over 25 years ago, when he was a nineteen year old medical student.  

SAM_3595Dr. Balu started off by talking about the service learning program, and the meaningful work students can do with the program.   He then shared about how and why he started SVYM.  When Dr. Balu opened it up to questions, students were very interested in how he started SVYM and hearing about his journey to get where he is today.  He shared stories of times when he felt like giving up, working all day and night, and even losing faith in his own conviction during his journey.   He spoke about finding his path back, when he realized what he is doing is not really about himself, but about all the others in need. 

Dr. Balu also shared his opinions about the recent announcement of India’s poverty line, the Occupy Wall Street movement, capitalism, higher education in India, obtaining grants for SVYM in India, various research projects he is involved in, and how students can get involved to make a positive impact.  

SAM_3592Dr. Balu asked students who participated in the ILR’s Global Service Learning program with SVYM this past summer to share their experiences.  Students talked about their various projects and each student attempted to find words to describe how much their experience with SVYM has changed their lives and given them new perspectives.  Some students also shared that they still keep in touch with their mentors and have recently found out that their summer projects are now coming to fruition.  This only confirmed their stories about how their projects have a real world impact.

At the end of the session, Dr. Balu left students with some words of advice: Practice compassionate curiosity.   Find your own sanctuary, as it will help you keep balanced in life.  Look around, see yourself for who you really are and know who you are trying to be.  

For students interested in ILR’s Global Service Learning program, please click here to learn more about the application process.  Applications for the Summer 2012 Global Service Learning program are due on Monday, November 14.  For questions, please email