About Us2023-08-15T00:36:45+05:30

Program Overview

“Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., March for Integrated Schools, April 18, 1959.

The Exchange Initiative is a six-weeks program where participants begin with a one-week virtual program component that sets the foundation and prepares them for a two-week academic residency in the US and then another two-weeks in India for the experiential learning. The US-based academic residency preferably takes place at an Historically Black College and University (HBCU) campus and is complemented by off-campus site visits that reinforce the rigorous academic sessions. The India-based experiential learning component takes place after the US-based academic residency includes educational travel to relevant communities and historical sites around India that highlight and explore the program theme. The Exchange also includes a multi-day closing forum that connects Exchange participants with experts, professionals, and civic leaders from the United States and India. All components of the Exchange include academic sessions, group discussions, and experiential learning activities that focus on relevant topics and include opportunities to practice leadership, team building, collective problem-solving, effective communication, and management skills. Therefore, participants gain both theoretical knowledge and practical skills. The Exchange fosters an inclusive environment by incorporating speakers from diverse backgrounds and by encouraging open and collaborative discussions.


This multifaceted program is skillfully prepared to facilitate lively debate, review lessons of history, listen to lived experiences, and offer experiential learning opportunities and art activities. It aims to advance civil rights and social justice while thematically preparing and training selected participants who want to solidify their voice, find meaning in their work, and make a difference in the lives of others. These participants will be receiving multidimensional preparation (achieved through curriculum, engagement with speakers, visits to historical and museum sites, leadership skills training, and art applications) to become the future leaders in schools and communities. In today’s world of distress, conflicts, marginalization of communities, hatred and widespread violence based on race, caste, gender, ethnicity and so on, this program offers necessary insight and training to develop leaders of tomorrow. If Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were alive today, what advice would they offer to effectively navigate our contemporary issues? What systemic change efforts would they suggest to help our marginalized communities? We envision pondering on such questions as we teach about the legacies and lessons of Gandhi and MLK.


This Exchange is a custom-designed, well-integrated academic and experiential program that combines lectures, discussions, readings, presentations, workshops, site visits, community service, and educational travel among other things, for leadership development into a substantive, cohesive, and coherent program that highlights the larger program themes. It offers an opportunity to interact with a diverse group of scholars, experts, practitioners, government representatives, members of private sector, non-governmental and community-led organizations, and local community members to explore he Exchange’s themes.


In light of the themes of the Exchange, the program has been designed with four major objectives which is to help facilitate the participants to – explore the life and works of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr; interpret academic and experiential learning components through socially engaged art activities; examine the impact of Gandhi and King and make connections to social, cultural and historical outcomes; and, to develop self-reflection/anti-bias skills, culturally sensitive communication, school and community advocacy, and leadership skills through multicultural lens and social justice.


Further to the program objectives, there are certain learning outcomes which encompass these objectives. These include- social studies learning outcomes, socially engaged art learning outcomes and counseling/leadership learning outcomes. Each of these deal with providing opportunities to engage in varied justice discourses, visiting historical sites, and develop scholarly activities related to curriculum standards. Apart from increasing socio-emotional skills, communication styles, inter-personal skills through various implied methods, it also offers the prospects of immersing in socially engaged art forms with focus on process rather than products.


The twenty participants selected for the program are recruited from historically underserved and disadvantaged groups in both the US and in India. Selected participants will have a record of academic achievement and demonstrated leadership experience in their communities. Approximately ten participants come from the United States and ten from India. Apart from a strong display of willingness to be a civic leader, to be eligible to participate in the program, a candidate must be between the age bracket of 18- 25 years with proficiency in English language. The U.S. Embassy in India takes the lead on the recruitment of qualified candidates from India whereas, in the US, the University of Alabama is responsible to take the lead in the recruitment of qualified candidates from the United States. The final participant selection decisions are taken by the US State Department of Education and Cultural Affairs. To know more about the application process, click below.

Program Leaders

Joy J. Burnham, Ph.D.
Joy J. Burnham, Ph.D.Principle Investigator
Senior Associate Dean and Professor
College of Education, The University of Alabama
Lisa Matherson, Ph.D.
Lisa Matherson, Ph.D.Co-Principle Investigator and Curriculum Director
Coordinator of Continuous Improvement and Associate Professor
College of Education, The University of Alabama
Sylvia Hollins, Ph.D.
Sylvia Hollins, Ph.D.Co-Principle Investigator and Administrative Director
Assistant Professor
Educational Studies in Psychology, Research Methodology, and Counseling
College of Education, The University of Alabama
Kyle Holland
Kyle HollandFaculty and Co-Principle Investigator
Instructor and Studio Manager
College of Communication and Information Sciences
The University of Alabama

Our Partners


The Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange Initiative is committed towards excellence that extends beyond the duration of the program. We are immensely proud of the vibrant community of alumni who have graduated from our program, each contributing in their own remarkable ways to their communities.

From mentorship opportunities to collaborative projects, our alumni remain integral to the growth of our program and its future participants- nurturing a lifelong connection that extends beyond the program duration.

To know more about our alumni, their stories, and testaments, click read more.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

Mahatma Gandhi

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