Summer in South Asia Fellowships 2012

Funded by an anonymous donor undergraduate students Nicholas Pilarski, Carolyn Yarina, Marisa Perera, Eric Ranyal, Tessa Adzemovic,  Bradley Iott and Rabia Mahmood --winners of this year's fellowships will travel to India this summer to do research.

(see link below)


Nicholas Pilarski, Major: Theatre Arts, Minor: Global Media Studies 

Nicholas Pilarski is proudly from Traverse City, Michigan, where he served as senior class president of his high school. Shortly after graduation, Pilarski performed as a Blue Man with the Blue Man Group in over 500 shows in New York and Chicago. However, Pilarski's favorite theatrical experience thus far has been volunteering with the Chicago based theatre organization, CircEsteam, that helps at-risk youth from different racial, cultural, and economic backgrounds to build self-esteem and mutual respect through the practice of circus arts. Pilarski is honored to study at the University of Michigan, and hopes to use his experiences at the university to create art aimed at promoting equity and solidarity among disadvantaged groups.


Description of project 

For close to three decades, artists throughout India have successfully advanced the equity and solidarity of marginalized communities by employing participatory performance methodologies. Spearheading this grassroots theatre movement in India is the worlds largest, and longest-lasting, Forum Theatre, Jana Sanskriti, which aims to aid under-represented groups through the creation of street performance that analyzes, discusses, and explores solutions to societal oppression. I will study the work of Jana Sanskriti, along with various other street theatre companies, to investigate how participatory theatre techniques are being used as a tool to promote social change in the localities of Kolkata, Badu, Ramganga, Keoratala, and Patharpratima, in West Bengal.


Carolyn Yarina, Major: Chemical Engineering

Carolyn grew up as sheep farmer in the upper peninsula of Michigan, lived in Turkey for a year as a Rotary Youth Exchange student between high school and college, and she is now a third year chemical engineering student at the University of Michigan. Besides being an engineering student, she is an entrepreneur, world-traveler, and mountain biker. She is strongly involved on campus as the co-founder and CEO of a start-up social venture called CentriCycle, the vice president of Rotaract, and the director of community relations for M-HEAL (Michigan Health Engineered For All Lives). In the future, she plans to launch her company, CentriCycle, in India to use her engineering skills to improve healthcare in rural India, and the Summer in South Asia Fellowship is a great step in that direction.

Description of project 

This summer, for the Summer in South Asia Fellowship, I will be working with Embrace to design low-cost infant warmers that operate without electricity and will save the lives of low-birth-weight babies in rural areas. Through operating with Embrace, I aim to gain a greater understanding of how different organizations, with Embrace in particular, operate and design for the bottom of the pyramid (people who live on less than $2/day). This is an area I am particularly interested in, as I plan to start my own non-profit in India that improves diagnostic capability in rural areas.



Marisa Perera, Double major in Psychology and Spanish       

Marisa will be a senior in the upcoming 2012 school year. She is studying Psychology and Spanish at the University of Michigan and pursuing a career as a clinical psychologist. She plans to obtain her PhD in Clinical Psychology in order to become a professor and conduct research. She is especially interested in how clinical outcomes differ according to cultural differences, particularly collectivism-individualism differences.       

Description of project 

Mental illness has been found to be prevalent among homeless populations. However, numerous interventions to combat mental illness in homeless populations are based on Western methods, such as strategies to foster individual stability in order to overcome mental illness. Naturally, the efficacy of such Western-based interventions may be reduced in treating mental illness in Eastern homeless populations, because of different cultural values (i.e., Eastern cultures implicate family relations in order to foster individual stability). Accordingly, my summer program strives to examine the potency of mental health interventions that emphasize family relations in an urban, homeless, mentally ill population in Chennai, India by collecting survey data and structuring a program of awareness for both mentally ill individuals and their families. 


Eric Ranyal, Major: Chemical Engineering; Pre-medical student

Raised in northern Michigan, Petoskey will always be home to Eric. Although his parents have moved back to their college-town of Ann Arbor (to be close to Eric, of course), he loves spending time on the water, especially the Great Lakes. As a senior in Chemical Engineering, he will be attending medical school after graduation. Eric's hobbies include participating in Model United Nations, spending time with his fellow Chemical Engineers, and playing the piano. (Current) favorite TV show: The Walking Dead.


Description of project 

With the CSAS Fellowship Program’s grant, I would like to identify unique challenges that Indian clinicians face that exist after the successful implementation of EMR systems. Observational periods and interviews with clinicians are being designed to assess strengths and weaknesses of EMR systems. Particular points to be addressed will include: how users are educated in using the EMR system, how users are incentivized to use the EMR system, and the process by which users provide feedback to modify the EMR system. I plan to visit approximately ten medical centers to conduct my research, and will compare and contrast my findings and offer solutions in a final report.


Tessa Adzemovic, Major: Biochemistry and French 


Tessa is a Junior pursuing a double concentration in Biochemistry and French at the University of Michigan. She is involved in several other organizations on campus including Salto Dance Company and the Division of Student Affairs Advisory Aboard. She is very passionate about travel and learning about other cultures. After graduation she plans on taking a year off and then pursuing a Masters in Public Health or a Medical Degree.


Description of project 

The research project I am proposing would investigate resource limited health clinic and awareness of them in Delhi, India. I would work closely with The Hope Project, an NGO that provides medical aid to a community in Southeastern Delhi. Their health clinic has seven divisions: among them a childcare clinic, a mobile medical unit, and an eye clinic. The research I intend to do would be done with both Indian and American ophthalmologists who have dedicated their lives to serving the citizens of Delhi. There would be opportunities to assist in the clinic setting and the research would address the attempts being made to empower Indian citizens to take care of vision and also study the efforts of the doctors working in limited clinic settings.


Bradley Iott, Major: Anthropology and Urban Studies

Bradley is hoping to someday become a physician and medical anthropologist.  He is currently a Resident Advisor and an America Reads Team Leader.  He is from Monroe, Michigan and enjoys photography and chorale singing.


Description of project 

I will be working with Armaan India, helping to create training modules that will be loaded onto mobile phones to train health workers in caring for expecting mothers and young children.  I will also be conducting ethnographic research to understand how maternal healthcare is provided in areas of India without sufficient health resources, especially in the context of Armaan's usage of mobile phones to relay health information.  This research with help me understand how local and western medical practices and ideologies are used to provide healthcare in India.




Rabia Mahmood, Major: Psychology, Minor: Gender & Health

Rabia is currently a Junior at UM studying Psychology and hopes to pursue psychology as a career. Her natural inclination is to have interactions with people that allow her to understand new perspectives and make a difference in people’s lives--however she is also interested in looking at inter-group relations within organization. For this purpose she hopes to pursue organizational psychology within the workplace.

Description of project

My project will look at the organizational culture of Public Health NGO's in New Delhi. I am interested in looking at the outreach by these NGO's to certain populations and how outreach varies by religion, education, and socioeconomic status. This will be done by interviews through clients coming into the Maitri Foundation for counseling, prevention programs (HIV/AIDS), and clinical interventions. By looking at the population coming in, and drawing comparisons with the people of the actual organization I hope to uncover which organizational behaviors allow for more equal access to women seeking information on HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, and prevention programs/workshops.




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Read the blogs of the students who are already in India: