Like many first year students, Nitya Daryanani '14 came to Denison undecided about her major. After an International Studies intro class during her second semester, she was curious about an offering focused on human rights and development, which was cross-listed between International Studies and Anthropology/Sociology. The way the two disciplines supported her deepening interests in global development helped Daryanani realize that both subjects worked well together, so she declared a double major, and dedicated herself to strengthening her writing skills and understanding development theories.
By her junior year, ready to apply her learning outside of the classroom, Daryanani spent the spring semester of 2013 in Durban, South Africa on an SIT program called Social and Political Transformation. Professors from nearby universities and local community activists led her classes, arranging academic excursions which included visits to Johannesburg’s constitutional court and Nelson Mandela’s Soweto home.
At the end of her semester, Nitya designed an independent research project exploring South African women’s negotiations of local customs surrounding traditional concepts of femininity and how they relate to broader principles of feminism — a project that deepened her real-world engagement with international development trends and which broadened her approach to research.
Feeling equipped after that to further advance her research abilities, Daryanani put her skills to work in the department of Anthropology/Sociology, in areas ranging from a self-designed data set quantifying human rights growth in Latin American to Institutionalized violence against women in India.
These projects deepened her intersectional approach to her International Studies capstone, which tied together her experiences in South Africa and her growing interest in the unintended consequences of development. She particularly explored the legacy of apartheid in creating systems of structural violence targeting children in South Africa’s most impoverished townships.
Daryanani returned to Mumbai after graduation and found nonprofit work in international development, in part due to an internship she did at a Mumbai agency her sophomore year at Denison.
In 2014, she began working for Dasra, India’s leading strategic philanthropy foundation, where she currently serves as an associate on the Knowledge Creation and Dissemination team, writing research reports and conducting due diligence on non-profit organizations. As funders look to spend their philanthropic donations wisely, Daryanani prepares advisory research analyzing India’s most pressing social needs and NGOs dedicated to promoting related social change. Her research and recommendations directly inform donors’ plans to catalyze social change in India. Her work contributes to Dasra’s impact of reaching nearly 20+ million Indians living in poverty, while strengthening the public’s trust in nonprofit organizations.
“For the longest time, I felt that I hadn’t actually left college because everything I did was so relevant at [Dasra],” Nitya said, particularly citing the research and communication skills she developed as an International Studies major.
Daryanani looks forward to continuing her work to promote socially responsible development, scale up India’s non-profit sector, and deepen her recent interests in strengthening effective governance.