Quick Info

  • Hanifl Center, Mussoorie, India
  • Spring
  • : Panther Program
  • : Anthropology and Archaeology, Biology, Environmental Studies, History, Less Commonly Taught Languages and Cultures
  • : January 5, 2020 - April 19, 2020
  • : TBD
  • : The application will be open in August 2019
  • : 2.75 GPA, Pitt Students: Must have completed 24 credits on a Pitt campus, Clear Judicial Record, Open to Non-Pitt Students


Explore your interests in anthropology, history, environmental studies, and more on the Pitt in the Himalayas program.  All courses listed below are taught in English.  
This program fulfills all four foreign culture requirements for students in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and both foreign culture requirements for Pitt Business.

The Himalayan region is characterized by a tremendous range of social and cultural diversity that corresponds to climatic, ecological and geographical variation, as well as local and regional geopolitical factors.  Historical change from the emergence of early forms of social complexity centered on chiefs and their forts – from which the regional designation of “Garhwal” takes its name – through the development of kingdoms and larger politics shows the intimate link between geography, environment and socio-political transformation.  Similarly, local language patterns, regional religious practices, musical styles, mythology, food culture, sartorial fashion, architectural design, agricultural and transportation technologies and engineering and trade networks have all been shaped by the structure of mountain barriers, bounded valley communities and bracketed lines of communication that follow river systems.  Whereas the political economy of the Himalayas has been structured around agricultural production, and the development of elaborate field terrace systems, there have also been subsidiary economies centered on trans-Himalayan trade and pilgrimage as well as pastoral nomadism and transhumance.  Since the colonial period, the Himalayas have increasingly become a place for rest, relaxation, tourism and adventure, and this – along with further political transformations since Indian independence -- has led to the rapid development of urban areas.  This course will provide a survey of Himalayan history, society and culture with a focus on the relationship between nature, the environment and geography.

You can see the course draft syllabus here: ANTH 0730 Draft Syllabus

This course explores the notion of sacred Himalaya to gain a better understanding of the intersections of religion and ecology. Focusing on the time period since the 1950s, students will critically engage with issues of socio-ecological changes in the state of Uttarakhand. Through course materials, students will think deeply about the place and the people. They will find answers to the questions: what is sacred about the Himalaya; who is it sacred to; and how is sacredness maintained? Sacredness in this course will be approached in multiple ways. It will include understanding sacredness as something that is omnipresent—existing before and after time—and beyond human comprehension, and also as something that is constructed, requires maintenance, and expires. 

Along with various journal articles, students will read three books covering Uttarakhand in different decades. We begin with Berreman’s (1963) Hindus of the Himalayas, followed by Guha’s (1989) The Unquiet Woods: ecological change and peasant resistance in the Himalaya. We end the course with Drew’s (2017) River Dialogues: Hindu faith and the political ecology of dams on the sacred Ganga.

You can see the course draft syllabus here: ANTH 1798 Draft Syllabus

This course examines how climate change is unfolding in the five Himalayan countries—Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. The course is designed as a research laboratory to investigate climate change impact, and response at multiple levels, involving multiple stakeholders. Students will explore perception, vulnerability, adaptation, and resilience as thematic instruments to gain a better understanding of the phenomenon of climate change. This course will draw materials from climate change related academic and non-academic sources that have direct impact on the Himalayan people. These materials will include, but are not limited to, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports, governmental and non-governmental agency reports, and interdisciplinary scientific findings.

You can see the course draft syllabus here: ANTH 1750 Draft Syllabus

Ranging in altitude from several hundred meters above sea level to over seven thousand, from subtropical forests to high altitude meadows and deserts, and from areas with little or no rainfall to regions that are among the wettest in the world, the Himalayas define a geographical region of enormous geological variation and biodiversity.  The goal of this course is to gain an understanding of this diversity, with a focus on ethology, the study of animal behavior and the interaction of animal species.

You can see the course draft syllabus here: BIOSCI 0825/ANTH 1801 Draft Syllabus

Introductory, conversational Hindi. The course will focus on communication skills and vocabulary that is relevant to common everyday use in the context of program.

India is a social, political and economic environment in which a broad range of South Asian Medical Systems have grown and developed over the course of several thousand years.  In the past 150 years these systems have been institutionalized and professionalized within the framework of colonial and national medical and public health policy.  Many of these systems are intimately connected to the environment, and to the conceptualization, categorization, production and consumption of natural resources.  This course focuses on a range of systems of medicine:  Ayurveda, Unani, Tibetan Medicine, Yoga/Nature Cure, Allopathy and Homeopathy, as each one of these is supported and regulated by the Government of India.  We will also look closely at forms of ritual healing that involve supernatural forces, home-remedies that are based on local knowledge, and the relationship between food and health.  The purpose of the course is NOT to evaluate the effectiveness or medical value of these systems; it is to understand how these medical systems and health practices fit into a range of social, political, ecological, botanical and economic contexts.  Given that a number of these medical systems are intimately linked to Himalayan botanical and environmental knowledge, the course will focus on the relationship between South Asian medical systems and mountain ecology.

Students will work with the instructor to develop a reading list that reflects themes outlined above and write a research paper based on both field and library research.

Coursework may count towards UCIS Asian Studies certificate.

On-Site Faculty And Staff

Dr. Joseph Alter Dr. Joseph Alter, a professor in Pitt's Department of Anthropology, has a life-long association with Mussoorie, where he has been conducting anthropological research for thirty years. Born in Landour and educated at Woodstock School, he has an intimate knowledge of Himalayan history, culture, and society that extends beyond research to local knowledge and experience. Dr. Alter's family home is adjacent to the Hanifl Centre, where students will be living during the program. Dr. Alter will not travel with the program but travel to Mussoorie to help students settle in to the program.

Pasang Yangjee Sherpa, Ph.D., is a cultural anthropologist from Nepal. Her research areas include human dimensions of climate change, Indigeneity, and development in the Himalayas. She earned her doctoral degree in anthropology from Washington State University in 2012. She was a lecturer in the department of anthropology at Penn State University from 2013 till 2015 before taking a postdoctoral fellowship at the New School in the fall of 2015. She joined the Nepal Studies Initiative (NSI) of the South Asia Center at the University of Washington as a visiting scholar in January of 2017, and currently serves as their co-director.

Suniti Suniti Bhushan Datta is a naturalist, consultant wildlife biologist and mountain/wilderness skills educator based in Dehra Dun. Prior to graduating with a Masters degree in Wildlife Sciences from the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun, Suniti worked as a guide and volunteer researcher at Ranthambhore, Pench and Nagarahole Tiger Reserves. Subsequently, he has conducted intensive field research on large mammals in the Rajaji-Corbett Tiger Reserve landscape. He advises the Uttarakhand Forest Department on ecotourism, wildlife crime and human-wildlife conflict, and assists with bird surveys. His particular research interests include the relationship between elephants with their environment and infrasonic communication. He has trekked and climbed extensively in the Garhwal Himalaya and has an eclectic knowledge of the region. At the Hanifl Centre, Suniti teaches a course in Himalayan Ecology to visiting university students, and assists with school groups with nature and outdoor activities. Apart from a passion for wildlife, mountains and outdoor education, Suniti has diverse skills and interests that include trekking, mountaineering, astronomy, military history, aviation and photography. He is an avid endurance cyclist and occasional artist. He watches birds only as a hobby!  He is the author of, 'Birding in the Doon Valley', a book he began writing while a student at The Doon School.

Akshay Shah - With more than two decades of experience in the outdoors including trekking across high passes in the Kumaon Himalaya, Akshay is an experienced and passionate trek leader, fond of simple mountain life and its rewards. He founded and managed Kumaon based social development NGO Lok Chetna Manch for more than a decade. He has worked for NOLS India as a consultant on their natural history projects.

Akshay is an instructor for courses in Wilderness First Aid & CPR and recently completed his WEMT at Missoula with Aerie Backcountry Medicine.  Based on decades of experience working on rural development projects, natural resource management programs and conservation in the Himalaya, Akshay teaches courses on Himalayan Geography and the Political Economy of Natural Resources.

   K. Krishnan KuttyExecutive Director, Hanifl Centre

  Administrative Director: Pitt in the Himalayas

  Kutty has been instrumental in partnering with Dr. Alter and University of Pittsburgh's Study Abroad Office since 2012 and is actively   involved in shaping the semester. Kutty has been in a leadership role in outdoor education for more than three decades and as Executive Director of the Hanifl Centre is engaged in the development, growth, and outreach of environmental and outdoor educational programs.



The Hanfil Center’s dormitory-style accommodations include most of the amenities that you are already used to, including computer labs, laundry service, access to telephones and WiFi, a 24/7 on-site staff, medical facilities, and more.  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are included, too.  

Pricing And Dates

In-State Fee Out-of-State Fee
Arrive in India Depart India
January 5, 2020 April 19, 2020

Keep in mind that dates are subject to change.  You shouldn't book airfare until given confirmation from your program manager.


“All students are required to attend the mandatory Pre-Departure Bash.  This afternoon long event will cover important topics relevant to study abroad like health, safety, security, and more.  Plus, it will give you the chance to meet other students studying abroad on your programs!  Alumni and staff will also be present to help you start thinking about your goals for the program.

The Pre-Departure Bash for this program will be on March 29, 2019. Your program manager will follow up with more information once you begin your application!”

Inclusions & Exclusions

As a part of your Pitt in the Himalayas fee, the following are included in the program:

  • Tuition for 12-15 credits
  • Housing
  • All meals
  • Health Insurance
  • Airport Transfers
  • On-Site Transportation
  • End of the year gala reception
  • Excursions

While your program fee will cover most of your expenses, keep in mind that you are also responsible for the following:

  • Program Deposit ($350, to be credited to your program bill)
  • Study Abroad Administrative Fee ($400)
  • Round-Trip Airfare (~$1800)
  • Indian Visa (~$200)
  • Personal Expenses (~$1,500 - $3,000)

Remember that your lifestyle and spending choices can greatly affect the amount of money you'll need while abroad.  Visit our Budgeting page for more information.

Special Information

No foreign language proficiency required.
Sophomores, juniors, and seniors in any academic major with at least a 2.75 QPA are encouraged to apply. Juniors and seniors who have a 3.00 QPA or higher are preferred.

There are no prerequisite courses, but any previous coursework in anthropology would be beneficial. Applicants should be prepared for an academically (and sometimes physically) rigorous semester of study.

Ready to get started on your application?  

Program Staff

Nazir Noori

Walk-In Advising Hours: MWF 2-4 PM

Salam! I’m Nazir and I am a Program Manager at the Study Abroad Office. I was born and raised abroad and went to school in Afghanistan, Iran, and the U.S. I also took classes in India and United Arab Emirates. I worked for the U.S. Department of State, USAID, and German Foreign Office for over ten years before moving to Pittsburgh in 2014. At the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, I assisted Afghan students to study in the U.S., and now I am glad I have the opportunity to help American students study abroad. Stop by the office during my walk-in hours (Mon, Wed, and Fri, 2-4pm) or get in touch with me at nazir.noori@pitt.edu or 412-383-4827 to discuss the study abroad options.