As a three-year-old, I asked my uncle, a trade union leader in my hometown, if I could help him paint hammer and sickle on the red flags that were arranged in a long line on the roof of our house. My socially engaged joint family of political leaders and trade unionists taught me to believe in social change and to work for it. My father taught me the value of activism and of the intersections between academe and the politics of change. The abject poverty and the struggles of my people taught me that intellectual exchange is incomplete without engaging the real struggles of real people. Therefore, my scholarship to me is very real. Service keeps me grounded in this reality, and is integral to the work I do. In addition to direct action and participation in various performative avenues, I post my critical analyses on my blog as a way to open up discursive spaces for debate and dialogue on important social, political and economic issues.
The research I conduct and the courses I teach engage socially-relevant themes that have an impact. With a focus on developing creative social change interventions, I study communication theories and processes dealing with marginalization and disenfranchisement at individual, local, national, and international levels. Therefore, service is not only a pivotal component of my academic life, but the fountainhead of my scholarship. Positive social change is the heart and soul of what I do. The AHRQ-funded project is one such example, incorporating the elements of community organizing and community mobilizing in an underserved community through the lens of scholarship on the culture-centered approach.
As a technical adviser to the Minnesota Department of Health’s anti-tobacco program, I participated in the different phases of development of the Target Market Campaign. Voted as the “Newsmaker of the Year” by the Minnesota Women’s Press in January, 2001, the Target Market campaign is a unique example of effective media targeting and target audience involvement. Other engagement outlets include the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), Purdue Student Wellness Center etc.
Since 2001, I have been offering workshops on evaluating quality of health information on the Internet to community organizations across Indiana. I have offered more than thirty such workshops to various community organizations. Organizations include the YMCA, YWCA, Hastings Cancer Center, local schools, public libraries etc.
I have also engaged in and provided leadership to community-based projects such as theater for social change and adult literacy programs in the Santali areas of rural West Bengal. The adult literacy programs implemented in different rural areas of Bengal involved street theater on socially relevant subjects, classrooms for group instruction, one-on-one tutoring, and group discussions. I am starting to explore resources for generating a basic infrastructure for the Santali community in the villages surrounding the township of Kharagpur. I am also working on developing a study abroad program in collaboration with the Rural Development Center at IIT, Kharagpur. Recently, I returned from a 10-day workshop on theater for social change in West Bengal where I served as the creative director on a production. In recognition of my service and contributions to service learning, I was selected as a Purdue University Service Learning Faculty Fellow in 2005.