Summer Institute

2020-21 SI Session Info

The Summer Institute (SI) is a creative writing and cultural exchange program for participants age 18-22 from Pakistan, India, and the US. Due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 SI session became a 10-month virtual session across 2020-21. This free program focuses on creative writing and the power of narrative. Collaborative workshops focus on their creative work, seminars expand literary knowledges of diverse global literatures in special seminars on the craft of writing, and in activities designed to forge new lines of understanding and shared purpose among its community of writers. The SI is an opportunity to see writing as a form of action – a personally-empowering skill that can be employed for social change.

Designed with intentionality and flexibility, the 10-month program (June 2020-March 2021) offers a mostly asynchronous “menu” for participants to choose how they will engage. Each month, participants have a new menu of six curricular elements: pre-recorded lectures discussing the month’s theme and learning goals, selected readings to expand learning, writing prompts to practice writing skills and new literary forms, one-on-one connections with mentors to discuss craft and gain insights from accomplished authors, small writing groups to learn from and write with peers, and social media engagement to build community with each other, 2019 alums, and the SI team.

The Summer Institute is supported by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.

2020/2021 session: June 2020-March 2021

Exodus, edited by Summer Institute Program Assistant Esther Okonkwo, is a compilation of work by the 2020-21 participants:

An overview of the 2019 Summer Institute participants and activities:


open mic event (watch the recording):


2020-2021 Summer Institute Mentors: 

Chandrahas Choudhury is the author of three novels: Clouds (2019), Days of My China Dragon (2019), and Arzee the Dwarf (2013), and the editor of India: A Traveler's Literary Companion (2010). He has written essays, reportage, and literary criticism for the Wall Street Journal, Condé Nast Traveler, the Washington Post, and Mint, and lectures widely on writing, and the Indian novel. 



Dini Parayitam has an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa’s Writers' Workshop. Her short fiction has been published in The Iowa Review, Boston Review and BOMB Magazine, among other places. She was an Emerging Writing Fellow at Yale-NUS College (Singapore) and a KALAKARS (NYC) Fellow for Scriptwriting. She is working on her debut novel in Austin, Texas.


Anam Zakaria is the author of Between the Great Divide: A Journey into Pakistan-administered Kashmir and The Footprints of Partition: Narratives of Four Generations of Pakistanis and Indians, which won her the 2017 KLF-German Peace Prize. Anam has previously worked as a director at The Citizens Archive of Pakistan, collecting oral histories from the Partition generation and religious minorities of Pakistan, and connecting thousands of students in India and Pakistan through a cultural exchange program. She continues this line of work as an independent oral historian and cultural facilitator. 

2020-2021 Summer Institute Staff:

Summer Institute Coordinator: 

Peter Gerlach received his BA and MA degrees in English from Ripon College and the University of Northern Colorado, respectively. After serving in the U.S. Peace Corps in Mongolia, he earned a PhD in Cultural Foundations of Education from Syracuse University.Since 2004, he has taught university students in subjects such as composition and literature, English as a foreign language, qualitative research, and international education. In addition to the IWP, where he has been since 2018, Peter is adjunct assistant professor in the International Studies Program at The University of Iowa.

Summer Institute Assistant:

Sharaf Zia received his B.Sc in Economics from the Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan. He has a MA in Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University, and is a 2019 graduate in Fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. 


2020 Summer Institute Poster

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