September 2016

Broadening horizons

Each year, the Tata Social Internships provide students from some of the world's best universities a unique learning experience at sustainability projects of Tata companies in India. The 2016 batch of students from the United States find their experiential internships a deeply transformative experience

“Living and working in India through the Tata Social Internship program broadened my perspective on ways of life around the world,” says Tata Social intern Chelsea Muennichow. She is part of the four-member team from the United States that recently completed the 2016 Tata Social Internship program. The 2016 edition of the program included a contingent of 19 international students.

  • Adora Svitak, Tata Social intern from the University of California in Berkeley, presents at Tata Communication' Sustainability of Things conference at the India Habitat Centre
  • Tata Social intern from the University of California in Davis, Damanjot Chatha's (lower left) first field visit with women at the literacy center in Bundelkhand, India
  • Shounak Chattopadhyay, Tata Social intern from the University of California in Berkeley, with schoolchildren in Bhopal, India, where the Tata Trusts and Muskaan (a non-profit organization) lead an education improvement program
  • Chelsea Muennichow, Tata Social intern from the University of California in Berkeley, with a few local children while in Kolkata, India
  • Tata Social interns Chelsea Muennichow and Adora, from the University of California in Berkeley, on a ferry ride to Elephanta Island, India

Since 2008, the Tata group has selected students from the University of California’s Berkeley, Davis and Santa Cruz campuses – along with students from the United Kingdom’s London School of Economics and University of Cambridge – to participate in a two-month summer program in India known as the Tata Social Internship. During their time in India, the students not only work on community improvement projects being implemented by the Tata group, but actively participate in and learn about the culture of their host country.

An exchange of perspectives
This year’s group included three students from the University of California in Berkeley – Shounak Chattopadhyay, Ms Muennichow and Adora Svitak – and Damanjot Chatha, a student at the University of California in Davis. Together these students comprised the ninth US intern batch, bringing the total number of students from the US who have participated in the program to 61.

Participation in the Tata Social Internship program is conducted through a highly competitive selection process that is administered by the universities in concert with the Tata group. Students are notified of their selection during the spring semester and then undergo a formal orientation at their universities to help them prepare for the experience. Training includes fulfilling special academic requirements such as taking courses about India, studying conversational Hindi language, learning participatory rural appraisal techniques, and / or completing a developmental studies related minor at the university, among other elements.

While in India, each student is responsible for completing a project related to corporate sustainability. The program allows students to gain exposure to the real India and its culture, while bringing international perspectives to their individual projects.

This summer, Mr Chattopadhyay worked on the Parag Initiative under Tata Trusts in order to better understand and promote children's access to literature in India. Ms Svitak studied education, employability, and development communications with Tata Communications. While working at the Tata Medical Center, Ms Muennichow completed a clinical research project that involved 200 patients suffering from leukemia and blood stream infections. Ms Chatha, working with a team from the Tata Trusts, analyzed the obstacles and challenges Indian women face accessing education, and where the opportunities lie for strengthening Tata’s existing women’s literacy programs. Each student was able to travel throughout India during weekend trips and experience the country at the grassroots level.

Giving back
At the conclusion of the program, the interns submit documentation of their projects and present their findings to members of the Tata group at its headquarters and at their universities. The work of each intern is formally reviewed, and the interns also provide Tata with feedback on their experiences to continue improving the program.

Previous interns have addressed a variety of issues, including integrated watershed development, conversion of wasteland into fertile arable land, and women empowerment through sustainable livelihoods and health education.

The Tata group is among the largest India-headquartered business groups in the United States, and the Tata Social Internship program provides US students with an incredible opportunity to experience community, society and business in India. Giving back to the community has been a core operating principle of the group since its inception in the 19th century. In the United States, Tata has propelled this ideal through its programs and partnerships with leading universities across the country, and the Tata Social Internship program is just one of the many examples.