FLAME, the Foundation for Liberal and Management Education

We spent the day in Pune at a 5-year-old college called FLAME, or the Foundation for Liberal and Management Education.  What an inspiring place!  The FLAME founders have sought to create an oasis of liberal arts education in India.   They have built a lush, beautiful campus on the outskirts of Pune that includes many of the amenities that you would in an American liberal arts college–residence halls, student center, athletic facilities, etc.

We were most impressed by two programs that FLAME requires of its undergraduate students–DIP and DAP.  The Discover India Program (DIP) requires students to do an “Indian immersion project” at a location of their choice.  This project must be done at a site where they can study both “heritage India” and contemporary India in an interesting way.  The highlight of the program is the 10-day site visit that the students do, accompanied by a faculty leader.  The students are expected to engage with the society as much as possible, an important assignment in a country where caste and class tend to divide and isolate people.  The reports and presentations that result from the DIP are very impressive.

The Development Activities Program (DAP) requires students to spend one month in a summer doing an internship with an NGO.  Again, they are asked to do project-based learning that will enable them to become better informed and more sensitized to India’s problems and begin the process of envisioning solutions to them.

FLAME’s founders had the luxury of a clean slate, and they have drawn up a fantastic program that should continue to improve.  Hopefully, SAU faculty and staff can lend their expertise to assist the FLAME project.

We concluded our India experience with a traditional Indian dinner at the home of Indira Parikh, FLAME’s Founder President.  It was a tremendous honor to be welcomed into the home of one of the great female scholars and educational leaders of her generation, a woman who has received countless honors and awards worldwide.  It also speaks volumes about SAU’s progress in India!

Indira Parikh, Paul Koch, and Neeta Sharma

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Gateway of India, Mumbai

We spent the day touring Mumbai, India’s a cosmopolitan commercial hub that is India’s version of New York City.  The British influence in Mumbai is evident in the Victorian architecture and the iconic Gateway Arch that marks the traditional British entryway into Bombay (as it was called at the time).  Our guide in Mumbai was Rohan Bakshi, an SAU MACC graduate who has worked in Mumbai and also has family here.  Rohan introduced to some of the trendiest parts of Mumbai, including Cafe Mondegar and Cafe Royal, the latter being where Bill Clinton once dined.

We then traveled to Pune by train, which was a learning experience in itself.  To book our tickets, we used a “runner” who stood by the counter.  By paying extra for the ticket to this runner, we were able to cut to the front of a long line and book our tickets more quickly.  This is the Indian way!

After a surprisingly comfortable three hour train ride (why didn’t we take the train to Agra!!!), we went to Rohan’s house for dinner and to meet his family.  Rohan is their pride and joy, or as his father said, “one of his wonders.”  It was a tremendous honor for us to visit an alum’s home and to meet his family, and it was evident that the feeling was mutual.

Rohan and his parents

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Multiple Indias


Catholic Church, Secunderabad, India

Although Catholics comprise less than 10% of the Indian population, their educational institutions have established an outstanding reputation in this country.  One of our ABE students, Mary, is Roman Catholic and gave us a fascinating peek inside of Catholic India.  First, she took us to a beautiful church built by Irish soldiers fighting in the British army during the mid-19th century.  It seemed strange to see a church similar to what we found back home located in the center of India.  Then, we went to visit one of 6 Catholic schools built by her grandfather.  The school that we visited, St. Joseph’s, consisted of over 2000 students in grades pre-k thru 10th.  On the day that we were there they announced election results for the student government, and the candidates were so excited to learn what office they would hold!  After graduation, Mary hopes to earn an MBA or another advanced degree at SAU and then return to India to continue her grandfather’s dream by establishing a Catholic college.

After visiting St. Joseph’s, we received a historical overview of Muslim India by visiting the Chowmahalla Palace, actually a compound of four palaces that from the 19th century housed the Muslim prince of Hyderabad state.  During British rule, Hyderabad was considered a “princely state” in which a prince loyal to the British Empire ruled the state on its behalf.  These beautiful palaces filled with priceless objects of Indian, Persian, and European influence showed that sometimes it paid to play nice with the British!

Birla Mandir Hindu Temple, Hyderabad

Two days earlier, we had visited a Hindu temple, which gave us a rich glimpse of Hindu India.  This temple overlook the city of Hyderabad and was filled with worshipers paying homage to some of the hundreds of Hindu gods.  We felt privileged to have the opportunity to visit such a holy site alongside these Hindu pilgrims.

Our visits to Catholic, Muslim, and Hindu India illustrate that India is really a country of multiple Indias, and you need to take the time to learn about as many of them as possible if you hope to truly understand this fascinating land.

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St. Francis Presentation

Ryan, Jennifer, Paul and the St. Francis College delegation

Today we had the opportunity to make a presentation about SAU to over 100 first- and second-year students from St. Francis College.  We utilized the video developed by Matt Carroll and Duke Schneider at SAUtv, the PowerPoint produced by Robin Youngblood, and the fact sheet created by the Communications and Marketing Department in consultation with the Center for International Education.  In our presentation, we emphasized SAU’s fine academic programs, wonderful student-centered support structure, and core value of diversity.  Then, ABE alumni from St. Francis gave testimonials about their experiences.   After these remarks, Sr. Alphonsa, the Principal of St. Francis College, enthusiastically endorsed SFC’s relationship with SAU.

Although most of the SFC students in the audience did not ask a question during the formal program, afterwards the majority of them stormed the stage to ask questions and grab information.  We were overwhelmed by the positive response!  Approximately 50 students expressed an interest in participating in the ABE, and dozens more inquired about our graduate programs.

Over 200 students listened to our presentation about SAU programs

The ABE program began as the vision of Arun Pillutla and has begun to reach a tipping point in its popularity in Hyderabad, India.  This is largely due to the tireless dedication of Arun and Jennifer Tuite in serving the needs of our ABE students.  The success of the ABE program has helped to establish a high-quality SAU brand in Hyderabad.

To the presentation Jennifer and I wore traditional Indian clothing that we had purchased the day before.  I purchased mine in the Old City, where the impressive Charminar is located.  What an exciting area of Hyderabad with lots of small shops selling bangles and saris!  The Old City has a large Muslim population, a rarity in India today but not in the 16th century when the Charminar was erected.  Hopefully I can find an excuse to wear my kurta again!

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University of Hyderabad

Whereas Lady Shri Ram College and St. Francis College for Women are very similar to SAU in terms of curriculum, mission/values, and undergraduate focus, the University of Hyderabad is a postgraduate university that is one of the nation’s premier research institutions.  Nevertheless, SAU is beginning to build an exciting partnership with U of H’s School of Management Studies.  This year, we welcomed our first ABE student from here, and we expect to quadruple that number next year.  Furthermore, the SMS is keen to develop an Indian version of ABE for our students.  An additional benefit of working with the U of H is that this university lends prestige and clout that should assist us as we seek Obama-Singh grant funding.

One of the day’s highlights was a seminar that we held with the SMS’s research scholars.  These students are some of the brightest minds of their generation,  and we had a great conversation with them about India’s 21st-century challenges and opportunities.  We encouraged the students when they become professors themselves to become “change agents” by becoming engaging teachers who challenge their students to do the courageous work necessary to end corruption and to improve the nation’s educational system and infrastructure.  These students were thrilled that we were genuinely interested in listening to them, and we were pleased to learn more about India’s complexities.  We encouraged them to enrich the lives of  students so they can enrich others; it was evident today that the Ambrose mission is applicable to young people halfway around the world.

Greetings to SAU delegation at the University of Hyderabad’s School of Management Studies.


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Hyderabad–St. Francis College for Women

From the moment that we arrived in Hyderabad, we have been warmly welcomed by alumni of our American Business Experience program who study at St. Francis College for Women.  Our partnership with St. Francis is one of SAU’s most exciting relationships because it has brought together two institutions that share similar mission/values but otherwise have no natural connections to each other.  Through the three years of our ABE, however, SAU has been blessed to host 20 SFC students, 3 faculty, and its president, Sr. Alphonsa Vattoly.  In a short period of time, we have developed a bond with SFC that has enriched the lives of countless people at both institutions, and has the potential to do much more.

The most recent ABE group is particularly remarkable.  In particular, the 10 SFC students who participated in the program absolutely loved their experience at SAU and thus are SO excited about our visit!  They picked us up from the airport late last night, and then today during our visit to SFC did most of the work in singing the praises of the ABE and of SAU to their fellow students.  Furthermore, the hospitality that they have shown and plan to show is breathtaking.  Already they have taken us to lunch at one of Hyderabad’s many malls; we had the honor of visiting a student’s palatial home in the posh Jubilee Hills section

A warm welcome by Sr. Alphonsa

of the city; and they took us for “chat” at a very popular roadside vendor.  And shopping is yet to come!

Our partnership with St. Francis is a wonderful model for SAU of how we can extend our mission of enriching lives to those living on the other side of the world.

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Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi

Lady Shri Ram College

On our second full day in Delhi, we visited a prestigious women’s college called Lady Shri Ram College that is consistently voted the top arts college in India.  Awn Song Suu Ki is an alumna of LSR!!!  Initially, we see great potential for faculty exchange with LSR that hopefully will lead to student exchange.  Another great potential partner for SAU!

I think that we are all happy to leave broiling Delhi behind and reunite with our friends in Hyderabad.  I pray that the monsoons come to Delhi soon!

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