NISWARTH = NON SIBI*
*NOT FOR ONESELF
Niswarth is a Learning in the World program of Phillips Academy Andover, the oldest incorporated high school in the United States established in 1778. Within Andover, the Tang Institute is dedicated to cultivating and sharing innovative ideas that center around a common inquiry: How do we prepare students for an increasingly complex and interconnected world? Niswarth annually partners Andover students and faculty with organizations in South Asia. Since 2004, hundreds of Niswarth participants have been inspired by the Gandhian phrase, Be the Change You Wish to See in the World, and have demonstrated long-term deeper levels of community engagement with the programmatic core values of humility, empathy and gratitude.
Niswarth brings together students and community organizations to build a kind of understanding that connects scholarship and friendship with field experience and internal reflection. Using a design-thinking framework and heart-centered pedagogy, students learn to identify and understand context, question their assumptions, build empathy and practice humility. We recognize and celebrate our shared humanity, and develop skills and attitudes to respond to local issues. Connecting knowledge, goodness, action and reflection in a continuous cycle, we gain a sense of purpose and meaningful connection with those around us.
"Once students are exposed to a level of complexity and diversity and understand that they can make a difference, there is no going back."
Raj Mundra, Director of Niswarth
The Niswarth approach to experiential learning takes place in communities that are different from our school campuses, and sparks a depth of reflection and action that is sustained for years after the program. The two-week service-learning program involves 12-15 students from one school, participants from the community organization (could be another school), as well at least three adults (teacher from school, adult from community organization, and adult from travel organization who also manages the logistics). All adults will participate in a training session to understand and implement the Niswarth pedagogy and framework.
The program prioritizes relationships – how to build cross cultural connections, collaborate inclusively, and design a response to a community issue. We use the global Design for Change approach to guide our design-thinking process. Additionally, the program includes a writing curriculum that is layered and iterative, sessions that encourage honest reflection, and many options for art, dance or athletic activities to build friendships. We have appropriate readings, TED talks, short articles, movies and interviews in our Niswarth library to share with participants. We are grounded by two questions during the program: What does the user need? How can I serve? Three themes that guide our time together are The Power of Small, The Joy of Togetherness and Small Acts of Kindness. Any Niswarth graduate could talk at length about why these are meaningful and how they have incorporated these themes post-program into their life.
We will share guides and frameworks for teachers to lead orientation sessions and post-program activities that will contribute back to the school community. Partnerships between schools and community organizations offer multiple perspectives and opportunities for building longer term relationships. A growing Niswarth network of schools and organizations are committing to young people learning about community development and global citizenship. Schools in our pilot year will be a part of this network, and support for ongoing collaboration will be provided by Phillips Academy.
The next iteration of Niswarth is to share our model with others and invite like-minded schools and community organizations to work collaboratively. Our invitation is for educators and students to join our growing Niswarth network and collaborate on the pedagogy and framework that builds a kind of understanding that connects scholarship and friendship with field experience and internal reflection. Together, we can share share resources, develop high quality programming and track outcomes that represent the best of global experiential learning.
Associate Dean of Students and Residential Life
"In writing, I could explore an observation from a hectic day and unpack it, pushing myself to dig deeper and discover connections outside of the moment. In the honesty and vulnerability inspired by deep reflection, I believe that praxis became an essential habit in maintaining empathy as one of the core values of Niswarth."
Ryan Miller, PA '14, Niswarth '13
Writing is a core aspect of the Niswarth curriculum, and throughout each program, students take time to reflect on their experiences in our blog. Feel free to explore our most recent entries below, or visit our full blog.
In the News
December 11: Lessons in Trust and Teamwork for PA Athletes in India (andover.edu)
December 10: Context Matters (Rajesh Mundra, Phillipian)
July 31: The Power of Reflection: Niswarth Program Puts Praxis into Practice (Janine Ko, Tang Institute Blog)
December 12: PEA, PA to Host Joint Trip to India (Tommy Song, Exonian)
November 14: Exeter to join Niswarth Summer Program (Stephan Min, Phillipian)
Fall: "How Much Can You Trust A Smile?: Pedagogical Reflections from Phillips Academy's Niswarth Program" (Andrew Housiaux, Independent Teacher Magazine)
October 12: "Burst Bubbles, Broken Windows" (Jordan Boudreau, Phillipian)
October 5: Students share their experience in India during Niswarth Night (andover.edu)
December 26: “Hindi for ‘Non-Sibi’” (Supriya Jain, Phillipian)
Fall: “The Changemakers: Taking Service to the Next Level” (Raj Mundra, Independent Teacher Magazine)
April 2: Alum’s Documentary Details Academy’s Service-Learning Program in Mumbai, India (andover.edu)
December 29: “Does Community Service Really Change Anything?” (Raj Mundra, Christian Science Monitor)
September 18: In Conversation with Raj Mundra (Ranjani Saigal, Lokvani)
August 24: Students Join Hands for Sustainable Change (Priya Ramakrishnan, DNA India)
June 19: Niswarth Service-Learning Program Begins India Adventure; Follow Their Blog (andover.edu)
May 20: Niswarth 2008 Sets Ambitious Goals for Mumbai Summer Program (andover.edu)
"Develop relationships, not results-oriented projects. Work to understand people, and we will deepen our understanding of who we are and what our relationships mean. We will start to see that we are all interconnected, our journeys are intertwined. My well-being is intimately connected with yours."
Jayesh Patel of Manav Sadhna
The Niswarth program has been supported by several organizations and individuals: The Abbot Academy Association, Navroze Godrej ’01 and his family who have hosted the teachers and students, and grants from many Phillips Academy families and individuals. Over the past 12 years, Niswarth has partnered with many organizations in Mumbai and Ahmedabad who understand the goals of the Niswarth program. They have created opportunities in which Niswarth students can contribute in different ways to their on-going work in local communities.
These organizations have inspirational leadership, are involved in connecting schools and communities at various levels, and have been wonderful hosts.
"This is the first time that I’ve started to think that maybe it’s about doing something because you believe in the good of your actions – not in the promise and satisfaction of the results."
Arzu Singh, PA '16, Niswarth '14
Beyond Niswarth, Andover students have shared their experiences in classrooms, communities, in conversations with family and friends, in colleges and in their workplace. Learning in a context that is so unfamiliar has encouraged Niswarth graduates to ask some basic questions about social structures in and out of the classroom, and students have gone on to pursue many projects in communities around the world.
Brandon Wong '12
“Niswarth was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. There is no other three weeks of my life that were as intensive nor as instrumental in shaping how I view a range of issues, from global poverty to education disparities in Mumbai, and the different ways of achieving social change. Social entrepreneurship became one of my greatest passions as a result of the trip, and I owe many of my experiences post-PA graduation to Niswarth. I would never have ended up interning at Ashoka: Innovators for the Public in Washington D.C., nor joining some of the social innovation initiatives at UNC, if it weren’t for Niswarth. When I look back on my time at PA, Niswarth changed the way that I see the world quite unlike any other experience.”
Hilary Fischer-Groban '05
Going on the pilot of the Niswarth program in 2004 opened my eyes to the big, messy, complicated and wonderful world of modern India. Since then, I dedicated myself to finding out more. I moved to Mumbai in September 2010 on an American India Foundation Clinton Fellowship and am currently managing communications for ICICI Foundation, a corporate non-profit funded by India's largest private bank.
Hilary spent some time in December, 2004 working at a government school in Mumbai. There she developed presentations on children's rights and taught in a third grade classroom.
After Phillips Academy, I graduated from Brown University where I majored in South Asian studies. I spent a semester conducting field research in rural Gujarat, (quite a change from the slums of Mumbai!) and wrote a thesis on second-generation South Asian Americans. Prior to my fellowship and moving to India, I worked at Harvard Business Review Group and conducted research in organizational behavior and theory at Harvard Business School. While working at Harvard Business School, I co-authored a case study about international perspectives on quotas for female board members.