The Program for Scientifically-Inspired Leadership (PSIL), founded and led by Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies in MCB and CPB Dominic Mao, is returning to India this January to host a workshop introducing Indian high school students to topics in liberal arts and sciences. The workshop’s team of instructors include five Harvard undergraduates and five undergraduates from Osmania University in Hyderabad, which hosts the workshop. The program is partially funded and administered by the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute at Harvard.
“I look forward to returning to Hyderabad for PSIL’ 24!” Mao says. “We got over 50 applications for five slots so there is a lot of interest among the Harvard undergraduates to be a part of PSIL. This year’s PSIL instructors are from Applied math, Applied math+HDRB, Psychology+Educational studies, Economics, and MCB+Math. We are furiously working on the lessons and activities at the moment. The part I am particularly excited about this year is the pedagogy workshop with public school teachers.” The five PSIL instructors for this session of the program are Rishabh Ghosh (’25), Ida Kozuchowska (’25), Lindsey Lawson (’24), Lap Nguyen (’24), and Shefali Prakash (’25),
When selecting instructors, PSIL looks for Harvard students who are deeply committed to promoting equity in education and who have innovative ideas for curricular modules. “I have a background in building leadership skills and fostering civic engagement in students and I wanted to bring that passion to the PSIL program,” says PSIL instructor Lap Nguyen (Economics with Secondary in Government and a citation in Spanish ‘24). “I am interested in doing economic development work in India in the future and I believe that the PSIL program will help me gain the cross-cultural experience I need while making an impact in the lives of students.”
PSIL strives to counteract the Indian education system’s emphasis on simply memorizing information. The workshop will include several modules focused on evidence-based decision making covering topics such as entrepreneurship, neuroscience, public speaking, and creative problem solving. “The biggest motivator for me was the ability to work with students from underprivileged backgrounds,” says PSIL instructor Risabh Ghosh (Mathematics and MCB ‘25). “In addition, the Indian education system’s overemphasis on rote memorization made me especially interested in teaching because I think process-oriented thinking and problem solving are essential to learning.”
“As an Indian-American immigrant, my firsthand experiences have unveiled disparities within education systems and the enduring impact of the caste system on educational opportunities, particularly for individuals from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds,” says PSIL instructor Shefali Prakash (Applied Mathematics and Economics with a secondary in Government ‘25). “I am committed to PSIL due to my strong belief in the transformative power of education and its potential to shape destinies. I specifically joined this program as I noticed the program’s dedication to creating a more inclusive and accessible educational landscape in India, which aligns with my personal passion for education equity. Having had a fulfilling and eye-opening experience as an instructor last year, I am thrilled to return, this time as Head Instructor. I’m super excited to be a part of this incredible program.”
In addition to teaching the modules for high school students, the instructor team will be organizing extracurricular activities, such as wiffle-ball and soccer. “I am looking forward to getting to know the high school students, inspire creativity and academic achievement in them, and prepare them for the journey ahead,” says PSIL Lindsey Lawson (Psychology with secondary in Educational Studies ‘24). “I am planning to ask many questions to our Osmania University counterparts about their educational experiences and motivations. Lastly, we hope that all students will bring the scientific method and an entrepreneurial spirit that are at the core of PSIL with them in their future pursuits.”
The PSIL instructors say they’re especially looking forward to one-on-one conversations with the Indian students and gaining insight into their worldviews. “Participating in a similar program in Dubai last year, perhaps the most beautiful experience proved to be listening to the perspectives of university, high school, sometimes middle school students: their worries on global matters, their aspirations and curiosity, their ideas on solving issues where they see a need for change, even if only on a local level,” says PSIL instructor Ida Kozuchowska (Applied Mathematics and Stem Cell Biology with a secondary in Educational Studies ‘25). “This brought a lot of hope and inspiration to us as mentors and helped us shape trajectories of change we’d like to be a part of in the upcoming years. It was also really fascinating to learn firsthand about whole new culture: the everyday lives, the family stories, or beloved traditions. The little interactions, even if only during coffee break, will always hold a special place in my memory.”
This year, Resident Dean of Elliot House Andi Wright will be part of PSIL’s leadership along with Mao. Wright and Mao will run a pedagogy workshop for Indian high school teachers, which will ensure that ideas from PSIL carry over into the school year. “I’m new to PSIL this year and am particularly excited to be in community with high school teachers while our students teach high school students,” Wright says. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn more about cultures of teaching and learning around the world and will be an exercise in translating our own pedagogical values and approaches to a different context. As this is our first year running pedagogy workshops I’m curious to learn which educational exercises and activities are most compelling to the high school teachers with which we’re collaborating.”
“I think we all just wanted to thank Dominic and Andi for not only giving us a chance to become part of this program but also facilitating an amazing, welcoming space for us as instructors to work together and learn from each other when shaping the curriculum,” Kozuchowska adds. “Our weekly meetings are always a highlight of my week, and I think in this short period of time we’ve grown a lot both as a team and also as friends. I couldn’t be looking forward to our January program more!”
Please join us in wishing the PSIL team the best of luck in their endeavors this January.