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.
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. 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 every year 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. Site visits always include shopping for new clothes, bindis, and bangles, multiple meals at Murugan Idli, trips to see Tamil films with Nirmala, ridiculously hot treadmill running, and now: bowling at the local mall.
The RESIDENT DIRECTOR, LAURAH KLEPINGER-MATHEW, 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. Laurah is a doctoral candidate in Anthropology at Syracuse University. Her dissertation is a study of working lives and relations in the South Indian branches of an international yoga organization. Through the lens of one well-established spiritual institution with high ideals and a long-standing international community, the project explores some of the limits and possibilities of communication across difference, in the context of contemporary globalization. Laurah is proficient in both Tamil and Malayalam language and was twice a language fellow with the American Institute of Indian Studies. She holds the MA degree in dance (performance and culture) and MFA in dance (choreography) from UCLA. Laurah has been a yoga teacher since 1997 and a mom since 2011. She and her family will join the SITA community in Madurai in the fall 2013 semester.
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 ASSISTANT, MEREDITH UNGER, was a SITA student during spring 2011. Her program assistant position begins in fall 2013. She will represent South India Term Abroad at study abroad fairs during the fall and move to Madurai in December. Meredith graduated from Smith College in 2012 with a B.A. in Education and Child Study, and is a licensed elementary school teacher. Meredith was touched by the careful guidance and endless care she received from her host parents and siblings, whether it was help with tricky Tamil homework, hand-drawn maps to guide her on the bike ride to school, and certainly always from host mom’s exquisite cooking! As a dancer and gardener, Meredith was struck by the beauty of Madurai. Street vendors of exotic fruit greeted her outside the SITA Center, and she admired strings of fragrant jasmine flowers hanging in women’s long, thick braids down colorful saris. She watched herds of goats trot through streets and patiently waited as cows moseyed their way across busy intersections. Her semester spent living and learning in Madurai proved to be as alluring and illuminating as she expected. For these reasons and many more, Meredith is thrilled to return to Madurai as a Program Assistant and to welcome the incoming SITA students.