SITA Center & Staff
SITA gave me a chance to explore, understand, and fall in love with a culture completely different to what I’m used to. I will never forget my experience here and I hope to come back to India soon! I really recommend this program if you are looking for an opportunity to be fully immersed in Indian culture. You will have a great support system and you won’t ever regret your decision.  - Bates student, 2011

Draw on the cultural and academic resources of Madurai through the SITA Center, located near two colleges.

South India Term Abroad students take classes at the SITA Center.  Located in a residential area, the SITA Center offers students a comfortable home-base and access to the cultural and academic resources of Madurai. It is adjacent to Lady Doak College (a women’s college) and a short bicycle ride to American College (co-ed college). Students can visit both campuses to attend events, use libraries, and meet with faculty and students. Faculty members from these, and other colleges and universities in Madurai, come to the SITA Center to hold classes. The two-building center houses classrooms, staff offices, a state-of-the-art library, a computer center, and social gathering spaces for students. Host families live an easy walk, bicycle, or bus ride from the Center. It is a 10 minute bus ride from the center of the city.

In addition to faculty members and your host families, there are many people who will help you prepare for your journey to Madurai and adjust to the cultural and academic demands of South India Term Abroad. Our staff members have remarkable travel, volunteer, and academic credentials in India and years of experience in study abroad. They understand the unique experience of studying and living in Madurai as a U.S. undergraduate student. They create a culturally supportive and intellectually challenging environment for you to thrive as a SITA student. As a cultural immersion and language study program, SITA has a core staff with exceptional academic qualifications.

Erin (PA) and Connie, staff trip to the mall, spring 2014

The U.S.-based EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DR. CONNIE ETTER, is responsible for overall program operations, manages the admission and pre-departure process, and oversees staff in Madurai. Connie holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Syracuse University, with Certificates in Advanced Study in South Asian Studies and Women’s Studies. Her dissertation research explored themes of belonging and community in a social rehabilitation shelter for women outside of patriarchal family structures in Madurai. Connie first visited South India as an undergraduate study abroad student in 2000. Since then, Madurai has become a second home. Before becoming SITA ED, Connie visited Madurai annually for research trips and Tamil language study. She also lived in Madurai for over two years beginning in June 2007. Connie joined South India Term Abroad in August 2010. She is currently based in Salt Lake City, UT and visits Madurai at least twice a year. In Utah, Connie enjoys road and mountain biking, snowboarding, running RAGNAR relays, walks to the grocery store, coffee shop, post office, and campus with Col (a border collie), and teaching Anthropology and Justice Studies courses at Westminster College. SITA site visits always include shopping for new clothes, bindis, and bangles, multiple meals at Murugan Idli, trips to see Tamil films with Ms. Nirmala, ridiculously hot treadmill running, and bowling at the local mall. Although this is a great position, her best job ever was working as a canoe guide for high school students in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota.



Hannah (Grinnell), Trudy, & Ariel (Scripps), final seminar at CESCI, fall 2011

The RESIDENT DIRECTOR, TRUDY DELONG, manages program operations in India, teaches the ethnography course and supervises students’ field research projects, advises students on cultural adjustment, and assists students in integrating their personal experiences into an academic framework. Trudy is returning to the South India Term Abroad Program as the Resident Director for the 2014-15 academic year. Trudy first started traveling to India more than 20 years ago, first as a student on the Antioch Buddhist Studies Program in Bodh Gaya, and then as a student on the University of Wisconsin’s College Year in India, Varanasi Program. A dedicated believer in the transformative powers of study abroad, Trudy has dedicated more than 10 years of her life to leading and directing programs in Asia and India. Trudy previously served as the SITA Program’s Resident Director from 2005-2011. She received her M.A. in Languages and Cultures of South Asia from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is currently completing her PhD dissertation through Syracuse University. When not contemplating dialectics of social value formations, eye donation and economic moralities, Trudy enjoys Sourashtra cuisine, silk saris and summer time in Maine.




Dr. V, Dr. Arun, & Mischa (PA) at orientation in Thanjavur, spring 2012

The DEPUTY DIRECTOR, DR. ARUN RAJA SELVAN, is responsible for all program logistics and travel arrangements, faculty relations, and budget and finances. He is also SITA’s Tamil language professor. Dr. Arun earned a Ph.D. in Linguistics from Madurai Kamaraj University. His dissertation was entitled “Problems in Translating English into Tamil.” He has been with South India Term Abroad since 1993. During the summer of 2012, Dr. Arun is Tamil Professor at SASLI: South Asia Summer Language Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Ms. Nirmala in Mysore, spring 2014

The OUTREACH & OPERATIONS MANAGER, MS. NIRMALA CHRISTINA, is responsible for host family relations, student health and adjustment, and facilities and staff management at the SITA Center. Her first position with South India Term Abroad was librarian, when she had the huge task of organizing the  wonderful and large SITA book collection. She has been with South India Term Abroad since August 2008.






Program assistants impart pre-departure information and advice, help students deal with cultural issues in India, and facilitate students’ well-being during the program. As recently-graduated South India Term Abroad alumni, program assistants are particularly conscious of and well-suited to address the sorts of issues and challenges that SITA students face. 

Carmen, spring 2013

PROGRAM ASSISTANT, CARMEN PUENTES, was a South India Term Abroad student during spring 2013. Her program assistant position begins in fall 2014. Carmen graduated from Syracuse University with a B.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders with an integrated learning major of Neuroscience. She works as a leadership specialist developing workshops for high school students across the country. Her workshop topics range from how to present a powerful message to building the perfect resume. She has also worked as a leadership coach helping Career and Technical Student Organizations complete their yearly programs of work. For two and a half years she has traveled with TRI Leadership Resources, LLC providing high school students with tips, tools and lots of candy! Being a West Coast native, Carmen loves to spend her summers in beautiful Santa Cruz, California working for the Center for Talented Youth Summer Camp program put on by Johns Hopkins University. She works with 12-16 year olds who have been selected to attend a college level course of their choice for two three-week sessions. Though she does not work with the students in the classroom, she helps plan and execute their daily activities. Carmen’s most favorite part of Madurai was the farmer’s market. She would pay the delicious fruit stands daily visits. Bike rides to SITA and delicious home cooked meals were a close second. She is thrilled to have the incredible opportunity to revisit such a vibrant city and meet this year’s talented SITA students.