Summer Institute
on Social Justice

English Department member Lisa Vargo speaks to a student at the 2017 Summer Institute.

Nine delegates from the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Arts & Science, including English Department members David Parkinson and Lisa Vargo, lent their expertise at an intensive summer workshop in India June 19-30 to help the next generation of researchers there advance social justice.

Titled Social Justice: Practice and Research, the workshop was jointly organized by the College of Arts & Science and the host university, the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN) in Gujarat, India. Social sciences and humanities experts from both universities, along with guest speakers, led sessions attended by about 60 participants from India. The institute was based on the premise that teaching key research skills can be “a powerful tool to understand and address issues of inequality and injustice and to bring in social change,” said Ambika Aiyadurai, an assistant professor of anthropology at IITGN and a coordinator of the workshop.

The workshop is the latest in a series of efforts at building international “collaborative activities” between the U of S and IITGN, said Raj Srinivasan, head of the college’s Department of Mathematics & Statistics and one of the local coordinators—along with Professor of English David Parkinson—of the event. IIGTN and the college worked together on a similar summer institute on the theme of global health in 2015, and faculty and students from IITGN have made several visits to the U of S.

The College of Arts & Science’s relationship with IITGN and its experience in this research area made it an ideal partner for the summer institute, said Aiyadurai. “[The U of S’s] mission of commitment to community and valuing diversity, equality and human respect and dignity connects with IITGN’s goal of achieving academic excellence while continuing its contribution to the development of humanity at large.”

Professor of English Lisa Vargo, who taught writing at the workshop, said she was eager to return to India after her experience living there for a month as a delegate at the 2015 summer institute. “There were some really exciting and fulfilling things that happened at the workshop. Meeting these students and talking to them and seeing what their lives were like was quite inspiring.” Like many of the delegates to the previous summer institute, Vargo has kept in touch with students and colleagues she met in India.

— Chris Putnam, College of Arts & Science