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Fulbright scholar Dr. Sandep Kandhwal visits Green River

Dr. Kandhwal teaches Frank Primiani's class about the caste system in India and the challenges of overcoming discrimination when it is embedded into a society.

Dr. Sandep Kandhwal, noted Indian scholar and senior-most member of the faculty at Government College, Safidon, Jind, visited Green River on Monday, March 11.

Sophia Iliakis Doherty accompanied Kandhwal to Green River. Doherty is the Director of International Student and Faculty Services at Peninsula College, where Kandhwal works as a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence.

International Programs hosted a luncheon for Kandhwal, where he lectured briefly about the caste system in India and then fielded questions from faculty and staff members, discussing topics from the differences between American and Indian students, to the role of parents in their child's education.

"One of the first things I noticed when I started teaching here," Kandhwal told his audience of fellow teachers, "is how sincere the students are."

Kandhwal also spent time with two classes, where he went into further depth about the caste system and connected it to affirmative action and reverse discrimination in the U.S. "The [Indian] constitution and government do not discriminate, but society does," he said, pointing out that a disproportionate amount of college seats are reserved specifically for lower caste members, blocking students from a higher caste with better grades and test scores from being accepted.

"Government forces reserved spots in classes, but the social imbalance is still there." While the constitution and the government work against discrimination, changing deep-rooted social traditions is a long process.

"We've learned as much from Dr. Kandhwal about India as he has from us about community colleges in the U.S. and American culture," said Doherty, "This is the mission of Fulbright and it's been fully realized with this particular Scholar-in-Residence."

The Fulbright Program is one of the most prestigious awards programs worldwide and awards competitive, merit-based grants for international educational exchange scholars, students, teachers and professionals.