The award—which translates in English to “Jewel of India”—is given by the country’s president to nonresident Indians who have made exceptional contributions to society. About 25-30 recipients worldwide are selected for the honor each year.
Sandhu, a professor and former chair of the Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology in the College of Education and Human Development, has spent years addressing high suicide rates in his native country by raising awareness and encouraging mental health counseling. In 2010 he formed India’s first nationwide organization for mental health counselors and has been instrumental in establishing campus-based counseling for college students.
“In India, many consider it taboo to seek help from a psychologist or therapist,” Sandhu said. “We want to change those attitudes —it’s the best way to save lives.”
The selection committee considered Sandhu’s work in India as well as his international contributions to education and counseling.
The Hind Rattan Award is given by the NRI Indian Welfare Society. The selection committee includes prominent government officials and diplomats. India President Pranab Mukherjee or Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will present the award.
Sandhu’s accolades include two stints as a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar and inclusion in the Fulbright Specialist Program. He is an expert in multiculturalism and diversity and has authored or edited 12 textbooks. He earned a doctorate at Mississippi State University.