January 2018

Year in Review: Ten Years in Auroville


You can say many things about 2018, but it certainly didn’t slip by quietly. From guest speakers, to world-leading conferences, to new collaborations and anniversaries, The American University of Paris has continued to thrive and grow in 2018. As we move quickly towards a new year, we are taking a moment to look back at some of the highlights of 2018 with our series A Year in Review. For our first installment, we take a look at how the year kicked off with an historic milestone; the 10th anniversary of the Sustainable Development Practicum in India, a one-month long study trip to the township of Auroville.

Over the past decade, AUP students and faculty have often welcomed in the New Year in India, and this year was no exception. Since 2007 undergraduate and graduate students have traveled to Auroville, India for hands-on, real-world work experience with local non-profits as part of the Sustainable Development Practicum. It is a uniquely immersive program that was built as much to highlight sustainable economics and consumption initiatives as the heritage and livelihood practices that bring a community together.

In the feature story of our most recent AUP Magazine, we spoke with the foundational professors and alumni who have shaped the journey of this flagship initiative, looking back on the origins of the practicum and the indelible impact it has had on so many members of the AUP community. “When we developed the practicum, we were also thinking about students and their ongoing growth as thinkers, scholars and globally conscientious citizens,” said Professor Charles Talcott. “Thinking sustainably is thinking holistically, thinking much larger than just the impact of one’s actions on some exterior environment. In Auroville, the students see that they are part and parcel of a living element in a community. They're part of a global world that is struggling to advance itself, to preserve what is good and what is true and what is real in the world.”

2017 Slosberg Grant Recipient Faith Toran used her grant to travel to India for a 6-month stint that included time with the WasteLess team, an educational research organization focused on sustainable waste management based in Auroville. Looking back at her experience, she characterizes the time in India as profoundly important for her, describing it as “a place of human development for me both academically and spiritually.” It is a description that AUP alumnus and former professor Laurent Sauerwein ’62, a founding voice in the creation of the practicum, could easily recognize. “The practicum was conceived from the start as an intense, sometimes trying, always fruitful experience. Today, it is still changing a few young people’s outlooks on the world.”

After a decade, the transformative role of the Sustainable Development Practicum in crafting compassionate, thoughtful, and engaged global explorers is as evident as ever. “It's so wonderful to see the impact on the graduates’ careers, now we're in our 10th year. It really is the fulfillment of the commitment to teaching, to development, to the concept of sustainability,” says Talcott. “Even though the practicum lasts just one month, you return and that sense of common dedication always remains with you.” Thank you to all who have made and continue to make the Sustainable Development Practicum possible. We can’t wait to send off the next group of students this December.

Learn more about the history of the Sustainable Development Practicum in India with our AUP Magazine feature.