GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Since 2012, for three summers, UF/IFAS students have travelled to India with Family, Youth and Community Sciences nonprofit management faculty member Muthusami Kumaran to learn about Non-Governmental Organizations (nonprofits) and development. While there, Kumaran also lends his expertise on strategic planning, fundraising and best management practices to local NGOs.
This year brought an added bonus: Kumaran won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Sethu Valliammal Educational Trust and the Soka Ikeda College of Arts and Science for Women, for his years of work with nonprofit organizations and NGOs worldwide. The trust, a major NGO itself, operates schools, colleges and vocational training institutions with a focus on providing educational opportunities to underserved students.
“It’s amazingly humbling,” Kumaran said of the award. “I truly consider it an honor to serve NGOs.” The UF/IFAS assistant professor has spent his career helping nonprofit organizations maximize their potential.
Here is, in part, how his certificate reads: “Dr. Muthusami Kumaran is a well-known and respected international expert and scholar in promoting capacities of NGOs in several countries around the globe. He has assisted numerous nonprofit organizations in the U.S.A. in enhancing their organizational management and taught best nonprofit practices for more than 2,000 students…”
Kumaran also has trained a cadre of nonprofit executives in organizational management in such countries as India, South Korea, Japan, South Africa, the Bahamas and the U.S. “The U.S. has the best nonprofit sector. The world is looking up to us in managing nonprofits,” he said.
While they’re in India as part of his study abroad program “UF in India: NGOs & Development,” Kumaran’s students have numerous opportunities for cultural immersion and fun, but they also learn about nonprofits from the people who run them, as well as their clients. India’s nonprofit sector is the second largest in the world, behind only the U.S. “It’s very joyous,” Kumaran said. “To witness students acquire the transformative learning experience through UF in India, which changes them for the better. It is heartening when they call me later and say, ‘Dr. K, you changed my life.’”
Although students enjoy a cultural exchange with nonprofit leaders, students and faculty in India, it’s not all fun and games. “We take them to the slums and rural areas of major cities,” Kumaran said, where students witness the living conditions of the people who need help from the nonprofits.
Kumaran said he and his wife see their visits as a labor of love. Kumaran came to the U.S. from India, where he earned a doctorate and served on nonprofit boards. He arrived in the U.S. in 1993 to work on another doctorate.
He began his research into nonprofits while a graduate student at the University of Louisville. Through a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant, he reached out to nonprofits in the distressed neighborhood where Muhammad Ali grew up. While in the community, Kumaran saw a need to improve local nonprofit organizations so they could help the less fortunate. But he also saw some successes, working with small nonprofits, who had virtually no money. “I saw it in front of my eyes, this community transforming itself,” he said. “That began my journey to work in nonprofit management.”