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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Reinharz debriefs February trip to India, experiences

Published: April 9, 2010
Section: Front Page

In India: University President Jehuda Reinharz discusses his trip to India in a panel discussion Thursday in the multipurpose room of the Shapiro Campus Center.
PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot

University President Jehuda Reinharz told students, faculty and staff about his “mind-blowing” trip to India Thursday at a panel discussion with Vice President of Global Affairs Daniel Terris and Prof. Harleen Singh (GRALL), both of whom accompanied him on his February trip.

The talk, held in the multipurpose room of the Shapiro Campus Center two months after Reinharz left for India, concerned the panel’s efforts to advance Brandeis in India and Reinharz’s personal experiences in the country.

Reinharz said a large portion of the almost two-week long trip was dedicated to increasing the connection between the university and India. Reinharz said he hoped his trip would create connections that would help students who want to study abroad or intern in India.

“Not that many of our students study abroad in India and I don’t know why,” he said. “It’s a great country and everybody speaks English there.”

This year only four students studied abroad in India, something Terris attributed to expensive housing prices.

“But now that we have connections in India, we can work on that,” Terris said.

Reinharz also said that in his time spent with parents of current Indian students, many offered their homes to students wishing to work or intern in the country.

Reinharz said the university is interested in starting a “brick and click” partnership program with an Indian university in order to create a stronger connection between the university and the country. While Reinharz said he has not found an appropriate partner for such a program, he hopes to do so.

“This is a country where people are hungry for education,” Reinharz said. “They are much more interested with liberal arts than I assumed we would find, so that is encouraging.”

Beyond the academic interests Reinharz had in his trip, the longest international trip he has taken as president, Reinharz had many moving personal experiences which included visiting the slums of Mumbai and the Chabad House in Mumbai, which was a target of the 2009 terrorist attack on the city.

“I will never think of a slum the same way again,” Reinharz said of his visit to Dharavi, the largest slum in India. “I expected to see people drinking and smoking whatever they smoke and lying around. Instead they were working hard, recycling everything you could think of and they were extremely clean despite that there were no bathrooms … the women there look like they come out of modeling school.”

In Dharavi, Reinharz had the chance to check in on Brandeis alumna Devika Mahadevan ‘00 at her non-profit Mobile Creches, which educates children who live in the slums.

“Our alumni in India are all doing such interesting things,” Reinharz said. “That made me prouder than anything else I have ever seen in a long time.”

Aside from the slums, Reinharz said he was also “boggled” by the amount of traffic in India, saying “to cross the street it takes 10 minutes.”

“More than that though, the people could almost crash into you 10 times but I never saw anyone angry,” said Reinharz who explored Delhi on a rickshaw ride with Singh. “It was amazing to see all the calm.”

Another goal of the trip was to advertise for the university and encourage Indian students to apply. Reinharz said he was heartened by the number of Indians he met who had heard good reviews of Brandeis from current students.

“Lots of people know about Brandeis because of a relative or a friend,” he said. “That just proves that the best advertisement for Brandeis is you.”