Aparna Wilder is the Associate Director of CASI Student Programs and Outreach for the Center for Advanced Study of India. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a double major in History and Sociology of Science and Environmental Studies in 2002. Her undergraduate research focused on women’s health and she received both the Nassau Grant and Rose Award for Undergraduate Research for her senior thesis on Postpartum Smoking and Relapse in the African American Community of West Philadelphia. After graduation, Aparna left for India on an American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) summer language fellowship where she studied Malayalam at the University of Kerala, Kariavattom.
After three months of living in Thiruvananthapuram, Aparna began a yearlong fellowship with Indicorps and was part of the inaugural 2002-2003 fellowship class. During her fellowship year, she volunteered with RASTA, an organization focused on women’s empowerment and environmental sustainability in the rural district of Wayanad, helped Indicorps research and create new projects for upcoming fellowship classes, and visited NGOs all over South India. After completing the Indicorps fellowship, Aparna worked as a journalist with the Indian Express newspaper in Mumbai before returning to the U.S. to pursue her Master’s in Public Administration at Columbia University from the School of International and Public Affairs. In 2005, Aparna spent the summer working with Unicef’s Knowledge Community Children of India Internship in Mumbai where she researched and wrote a case study on the child sex ratio in Maharashtra. One component of this project was to make a film that helped inspire her to think about how media can be used as a powerful tool to inspire social change.
After completing her masters in 2006, Aparna returned to Mumbai and co-founded Global Rickshaw, a production house that makes films in collaboration with NGOs and socially responsible businesses with the idea of making films that are both entertaining, informative, and can help spread awareness about important social justice issues. Aparna was selected as a TEDIndia Fellow in 2009 and has recently returned to the U.S. after six years in India.