Cornell Global Programs

Cornell Global Program | Nilgiris Field Learning Center (NFLC)

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Kotagiri, India
Approved by
Student Residence Hall
Spring Semester

The NFLC is a Cornell faculty-mentored, engaged learning and research partnership where Cornell students and young people from indigenous communities in the Nilgiris live, study, and work together during the spring semester. The NFLC provides on-the-ground research opportunities for students, community members, NGO professionals and faculty who all work together on ongoing projects that have emerged from community expressed needs. 

What is unique about this program?

The goal of the Nilgiris Field Learning Center (NFLC) is to develop academic and research skills with a view toward developing practical solutions for complex problems.  Projects address community-identified issues:

  • Community wellness, access to medical resources, and changing modes of healing
  • Dietary diversity, eating habits, and sourcing patterns in local food systems
  • Contested forest lands as spaces for food, farming, & trade
  • Infant feeding practices in the context of maternal health & social networks
  • Water and waste infrastructure in an urbanizing environment

Cornell's partner NGO in the Nilgiris, the Keystone Foundation, has been working with indigenous communities in the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve for more than 20 years. The focus of Keystone’s work is eco-development initiatives that emphasize livelihood generation, conservation, environmental governance, and supporting and celebrating diverse local cultures and peoples.

The NFLC provides transformative research experiences for faculty, students, community members, and professionals. Together, we engage in, give back, and benefit from the work done at the Center. Read more about the student experience on the Student Blogs!

For a presentation of the NFLC program, click here.

What is unique about the Nilgiris?

Located in the “blue hills” of South India, The Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve is incredibly rich in culture, communities, and biodiversity. It is an important ecosystem that covers three Indian states, and is home to a sizeable indigenous population.  Across the Biosphere, small towns, tea, coffee, and spice plantations, vegetable cultivation, and tourist facilities are interspersed with forested lands and national parks that are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna.

Students live and dine in guest houses on the Keystone Foundation’s property, a former hillside tea plantation with spectacular views of the town and surrounding countryside. Meals are prepared by a local cook using ingredients fresh from the market. Central Kotagiri is a 15-minute walk from Keystone.  The weather during the spring semester will be mild, with warm days and cool nights. Recreational opportunities – hiking, national parks – abound. Local travel is easy on the public bus system, with access to regional train stations.

Cornell Faculty

Cornell faculty visit Keystone throughout the semester to lead educational modules and direct field work.

  • Neema Kudva, City and Regional Planning, NFLC Lead Faculty member
  • Steven Wolf, Natural Resources
  • Andrew Willford, Anthropology
  • Lucinda Ramberg, Anthropology and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

How do I apply?

Apply through


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