In this issue
Each month the College of Professional Studies celebrates the unique and
exemplary path of a selected student. The August 2014 selection is Chaitanya
Datla who is pursuing an M.S. in Global Studies and International Affairs.
What is your background?
I was born in South India. My education at the Sri Aurobindo International Center of
Education enabled me to grow up in a cross-cultural environment. As an
undergraduate, I studied English, French, and philosophy. Subsequently, I earned
an MBA, which exposed me to the management sciences. I worked for six years in
human resources in different roles such as talent acquisition, talent management,
and personnel management. Beyond my academic and professional experiences, I
always sought out challenges that pushed me out of me comfort zone. I always
dreamed of becoming a pilot!
What were the origins of your passion for flying?
I’ve always enjoyed adventurous sports. Plus, I liked the sense of freedom and
space, so that is what probably attracted me to the skies. I applied to the Indian Air
Force but didn’t make the final cut. Later on, however, I was able to realize part of
my dream. While I was still working in the corporate sector, I came across a unique
National Geographic program centered on the Indian Navy. I was one of five
civilian participants selected in a national competition. That led me to experience
what it actually feels like to fly in a Navy fighter jet.
What role did you play in the “Mission Navy” documentary?
I underwent training at Navy diving school, submarine escape school, and a Naval
airbase, after which I spent one month sailing with the Indian Navy on maneuvers
in the South China Sea. I became the first woman to sail on an Indian Navy
warship. I got to experience life on board four different Indian naval vessels,
including a replenishment tanker, two destroyers, and a corvette, as they
participated in a multinational fleet deployment with American and Japanese naval
ships. It was an unforgettable experience.
How did you continue your connection to the sailing after your “Mission
The following year I became part of the Indian delegation participating in the UN-sponsored
Ship for World Youth exchange program, an initiative run by the
Japanese government in collaboration with UN University Tokyo. Ten people
between the ages of 18 and 30 were selected from 14 different countries to live
and study together on a 45-day sail from Japan to Dubai. I took an onboard course
on UN Millennium Development Goals and directed the Indian delegation’s national
culture presentation along with a few other co-delegation members.
How did your experiences at sea lead you to the Global Studies program at
One of the exercises on the Ship for World Youth program required us to speak
about our dreams. This made me realize that I wanted to change careers and do
meaningful work in the realm of international relations, specifically, conflict
resolution and development. When I moved to Boston, I found that the Global
Studies program offered a good match for my interests.
You recently returned from a master’s thesis research trip to India. What are
I am writing my thesis on the role of conflict in an intentional community, using
Auroville, a UNESCO-endorsed project located in South India, as a case study.
Auroville was founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa for the purpose of realizing human
unity. She envisioned it as a universal township, where “men and women of all
countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all
politics, and all nationalities.” Currently, Auroville’s 2,200 inhabitants represent 44
countries and come from all age groups, social classes, backgrounds, and cultures,
representing humanity as a whole. It has offered me a unique opportunity to study
the dynamics of conflict and peace in a multi-cultural environment.
What have you learned about the role of conflict in Auroville?
You see conflict emerging at the individual, group, and system ( i.e. governing
structure) levels. In addition, the anarchic structure of the community leads to
various kinds of tensions. In short, Auroville is a microcosm of the world. It contains
every conceivable type of difference or social conflict. I have noticed that several
Aurovillians see conflict as a constructive medium rather than destructive tool. The
challenge is to find ways to balance everyone’s interests and perhaps create a
model for sustainable peace that could be replicated in other contexts.
How do you plan to apply your Global Studies degree in the future?
I would like to work for an international organization like UNDP or an organization
focused on conflict resolution. I hope the skills I have acquired through my
education at the College will open the doors to some interesting opportunities. In
the long run, I wish to return to India, where I feel there is a lot of scope for
development and conflict resolution.
Summer 2014 Academic Calendar
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