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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis hones in on India in strategic efforts

Published: January 24, 2013
Section: News

President Fred Lawrence recently embarked on his second trip to India in the past 12 months in an effort to enhance relations in the country through the Brandeis-India Initiative. Lawrence traveled around the country with Harleen Singh, the Helaine and Alvin Allen Assistant Professor of Literature and co-chair of the South Asian Studies Program, and his wife, Kathy Lawrence.

During the trip, Lawrence met with alumni and prospective students and families to increase Brandeis’ relations with the Indian student base. He also attended lectures and conferences, and met with representatives of institutions with which the University has established strategic partnerships.

This trip comes after Lawrence’s widely publicized trip in February 2012, when he was accompanied by a group of faculty members and administrators as they explored “collaborations in the sciences with leading Indian research institutions,” according to BrandeisNOW.

Lawrence also participated in lectures on this trip, including two with former Indian Attorney General Soli Sorabjee and Arjun Appadurai ’70; these lectures discussed the themes of enforcing justice in diverse societies and social justice, respectively.

More than 200 alumni currently reside in India, according to BrandeisNOW, and this is a large resource that the University hopes to tap into. According to Dr. Harleen Singh, both trips have concentrated on strengthening existing relationships with alumni and current students from India, as well as forging strategic partnerships.

The University’s undergraduate student body currently contains around 60 students from India; many Indian graduate students also attend the Brandeis International Business School and the Heller School for Social Policy and Management.

The Brandeis-India Initiative was started in 2008 by Daniel Terris, Vice President for Global Affairs, and aims to “make a series of first-class relationships that will extend the research and teaching mission with regard to the world’s largest democracy,” according to the Initiative’s website.
“India is increasingly a population where we [the United States] are getting our international students,” said Dr. Harleen Singh, who also serves as the Faculty Chair of the Brandeis-India Initiative.
Singh also added that there is “a large demographic of potential students and partnerships” that the Initiative wishes to develop, and that India “has been identified by the President as one of the strategic places where he wants to focus global initiatives.”
These partnerships have already seen concrete results: according to Singh, the Heller School for Social Policy and Management and the TERI University of New Delhi have already engaged in successful joint academic programming.
The Initiative has not only benefitted the university abroad, but has had an impact directly on campus. Since its inception, the Initiative has provided a budget to offer more courses in the South Asian Studies program, which offered nine courses this semester. The Initiative has also allowed for the founding of the Soli Sorabjee Lecture Series, which began in 2009.
The Sorabjee Lecture Series has brought noted experts to campus to discuss the theme of “justice” in a variety of contexts, from the interrogation of human rights to gender and social contexts.
Students have also benefitted from study abroad programs developed as a result of the increased focus on India. J. Scott Van Der Meid, Assistant Dean of Academic Services and Director of Study Abroad, told The Hoot that the CIEE/International Business and Culture Program in Mumbai was founded a year and a half ago, three years after the Initiative’s inception. The percentage of students studying abroad in India “is growing in huge numbers,” according to Van Der Meid, and “so is the variety of opportunities for students,” such as internships, study abroad and volunteer work.
Van Der Meid also said that the University is currently working on another program that will be based in Bangalore. While he was unable to discuss certain details of the initiative, he told The Hoot that the program will focus on the sciences, including physics, chemistry, biology, math and computer science.
“This program is part of a wider initiative to look at ways to allow science students to study abroad,” Van Der Meid said.
According to Singh, the Initiative will continue its trend of progress through focusing more on academic partnerships, as well as continuing to increase the University’s presence among the Indian scientific, alumni and prospective student communities.