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Program Description

Since 2011, the ILR School has partnered with the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM) in Karnataka state, India to develop the India SVYM GSL Program. SVYM is a community development, non-religious, non-political organization working for the benefit of indigenous and rural people in southern India through effective education, accessible healthcare and sustainable empowerment initiatives. The organization boasts several academic initiatives, including a Master's degree in Developmental Studies offered through a local university as well as housing a grassroots policy research institute (GRAAM) in collaboration with the Cornell Institute of Public Affairs.

In 2015, SVYM was named the #1 NGO in India.

Together with Cornell Global Health students, ILR students will participate in 2-weeks of courses at the Vivekananda Institute of Indian Studies to prepare for work in their service-learning placements. For more information about the courses of study, visit the Courses page. Students will then participate in 4 or 6-week service learning projects in SVYM project sites that are both interesting to the students and beneficial for the organization.  This unique engaged-learning opportunity gives ILR students the chance to use their classroom learning and professional skills to collorate with SVYM to improve the community.  This cross-cultural exchange & learning and growth in global citixenship can be a life-changing and transformative experience for many students. 

Description of Project Component

Following the initial 2-week learning component, students will be placed in either 4-week (ILR students) or 6-week (GH students) service projects at a SVYM project site. Projects will be selected during spring semester before going to India, and an attempt will be made to match the students' top choices and interests with the needs and desires of SVYM.

The program is split into 2 parts.

Part 1. During the first week in India, students will take courses at the Vivekananda Institute of Indian Studies, an arm of SVYM, in Mysore, Karnataka state, India ( The courses are:

  • Indian Civilization and Culture
  • Gender in India
  • Indian Labor Relations & Economics or Global Health in the Indian Context (depending on program track)
  • Kannada (official language of Karnataka)
  • Elective course in yoga

For the second, ILR students will assist in the a week-lomg debate workshop for 14-15 year old high school girls.  The workshop will be lead by a member of the Cornell Speech and Debate Program. 

During week two, Global Health students will focus on health-related courses and go on field visits to hosptials and health centers. 

Part 2. After 2 weeks of courses, students will take part in service projects at one of SVYM’s field sites in Mysore District. The service project sites will be determined during the spring semester, prior to the students’ departure.

Sample of past projects offered by SVYM (note that the projects change year-to-year, depending on the needs of the communities):

ILR-focused projects:   law & alternative dispute resolution, organizational management, policy, governance, child labor, human resources management, corporate social responsibility, education policy, teaching English, palliative care, HIV study, finance and accounting, gender studies, disabilities studies, adaptive leadership project, marketing and fundraising.

Global Health-focused projects: video production on self-administration of insulin and foot care, HIV-AIDs community project, palliative care, research and creation of standard procedures for Aruvedic (traditional) medicine,  business plan for medicine production, educational material for yoga, assessment of patient flow,  nutrition study, and designing labels for traditional medicines.  In addition to projects, on occasion, GH students may have the opportunity to shadow doctors in the field or the hospital setting. 

Learn more about student projects in the ILR in India Student Blog here.

View the 2019 India GSL video!