By Lisa Hazelton, Senior Staff Writer

As the study abroad program becomes and more a more popular part of the college experience, faculty at Wooster are finding more innovative ways to help students get that experience. Wooster in India, a new program that starts this fall, will mix a seminar in the fall with a three-week long field experience in India during winter break 2011.

The seminar entitled “Exploring India at Home and Abroad Through the Arts” will focus on the arts and different lenses through which one can view them, including religious, historical and philosophical perspectives. Although the course will be taught by two professors from the theatre and arts department at the College, Shirley Huston-Findley and Kim Tritt, it is open to students of all academic backgrounds.

The field experience in southern India will take place in two different states: Kerala and Tamil Nadu and will include a visit to Dakshinachitra, a folk art village in Tamil Nadu where local artists come to sell, create and share local art in order to preserve the folk art of the region.

In Kerala, students will attend Kalamandalam, an arts university specializing in classical dance, music and theatre.† Students in the program will stay at the university and get a chance to interact directly with local Indian students, some of whom have been specializing in one art form since the age of nine.

The field experience in India will also include a student-designed service project in a small Indian town that received the aid and volunteer support from Wooster in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami.

Huston-Findley and Tritt are the visionaries behind the program.† Huston-Findley initially explored the possibility of doing a program at the College that would incorporate both a class as well as a field experience abroad while she worked as part of the Hales Fund.

The fund, established by College President Grant Cornwell in honor of former college President Stan Hales, was designed to support efforts to make Wooster a more global campus and enabled Huston-Findley to visit India, where she first encountered the art and culture of the southern part of the country.

Although Huston-Findley admits it’s hard to know what to expect, she hopes that students who have completed the program will return to Wooster in the spring semester with a greater fluency in their conversations and discussions about art in India and the strong ties between it and the culture of southern India.

Huston-Findley believes that there is a large distinction between the Western arts tradition that is heavily influenced by Aristotle.† The off-campus experience has consequently been structured to expose the students as much as possible to an Indian art tradition that is intricately tied to, and indeed, inseparable from significant religious and philosophical texts.

According to Huston-Findley, Wooster in India isn’t just one of the latest courses offered with an integrated off-campus component.† The timing and location of the off-campus component were chosen to coincide with a number of art festivals and events happening in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

President Cornwell recently returned from a visit to India where he met with alumni and parents.

The College has recruited students from the region for decades, according to a press release. This cross-cultural education is happily reciprocated.