November 10, 2010

As America Looks to India, Cornell Bolsters Ties

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As President Barack Obama visited India earlier this week to solidify ties between the two countries, Cornell’s connections with the nation of nearly 1.2 billion people continued to strengthen.

With one of the Ivy League’s largest populations of Indian students, Cornell is expanding its scholarships for Indian students, in collaboration with peer institutions and student exchange programs in India.

One visiting fellow from Cornell met with Obama during the President’s trip.

“I had a brief meeting and a pleasant encounter with him yesterday in Mumbai,” Vijay Vijayaraghavan stated in an e-mail.

“We had a panel discussion led by Secretary of Agriculture [Tom] Vilsack,” he said. “The gist is that India and USA should enhance educational partnerships … with CALS, [the] Cornell model in partnership with Sathguru [Management Consultants] being heavily cited.”

The joint venture with Sathguru entails several research projects, work on sustainable agriculture and the development of strains of wheat that are resistant to stem rust.

In 2008, Ratan Tata ’62, established a $50 million endowment to encourage agricultural research and provide scholarships to Indian students.

“Tata’s gift speaks loudly to the investment and attachment Indian alumni have to Cornell,” said Tommy Bruce, vice president for University communications.

Building on Tata’s donation, the Cornell Admissions Office has embarked on an aggressive campaign to enroll Indian students.

“We recruit Indian students through annual recruitment trips to India,” said Jason Locke, director of undergraduate admissions. “We also make good use of the Cornell alumni and parent networks in India who assist in our efforts.”

Almost 400 Indians studied and worked on Cornell’s campus for the 2009-2010 school year, including 65 undergraduates, 262 graduate students and 68 professors, according to the Vice Provost’s Office for International Affairs. Overall Indian student enrollment at Cornell has increased due to Tata’s endowed fellowships, Locke said.

The College of Engineering has established a relationship with the Indian Institute of Technology, the flagship engineering school in India.

“In India we recruit from I.I.T. as much as we can,” said Rajit Manohar, associate engineering dean. “It produces a number of high-quality undergraduates for our graduate program. A few years ago, a number of our faculty went to I.I.T. to create more awareness for Cornell.”

In addition to recruiting students from India, the University is also increasing its student exchange and collaborative programs.

In one CALS course, IARD 4020: Agriculture in the Developing Nations, students travel to India annually.

“During the January intersession we take a field trip to India—usually about 50 Cornell students and 6 faculty participate” said Prof. Ronnie Coffman, director of international programs at CALS.

“In all, CALS has very strong collaborative programs with India involving a number of faculty, staff and students” he added.

The Johnson Graduate School of Management has an exchange program with the Indian Institute of Management.

“We’re really developing our Indian strategy — I’ve been over there twice this year meeting with corporations on things we’ll do together,” Johnson Associate Dean Randy Allen said.

Several Cornell professors counsel the Indian government on a variety of issues critical to the growing country. For instance, Prof. Kaushik Basu, economics, is the chief economic adviser to Indian Ministry of Finance.

Prof. Eswar Prasad, applied economics & management, advises the Indian government in an official capacity.

“I am on an advisory board to the Indian finance minister on G-20 matters. I was also a member of the analytical team that put together a blueprint for financial sector reforms in India over the next decade” Prasad said.

Prasad’s research concentrates on financial development and regulation, which are “key priorities for India,” he said.

“I am not surprised to learn that Cornell faculty are sought out for their advice worldwide. It’s one of the key points of evidence of the successful Cornell-Indian relationship,” Bruce said.

Many Cornell professors and administrators also work on collaborative initiatives with counterparts in India in areas such as economics and agricultural research.

In conjunction with Indian universities, “we’ve developed varieties of wheat that are more productive in response to wheat stem rust … We also work with transgenic technologies to improve eggplant and potatoes,” said Prof. Ronnie Coffman.

Coffman, who has taught at Cornell since 1981, said he has seen ties between Cornell and India strengthen.

“The relationship with India has expanded in most of our colleges,” Coffman said. “There are more [Indian] graduate students and undergraduates than ever.”

In the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell “collaborates especially with Tamilnadu Agricultural University as part of a dual-degree program,” he said.

Associate Dean of Engineering Rajit Manohar, who is Indian, explained the strong role Indians play at Cornell.

“Cornell in so many ways is a global institution … there are a lot of faculty here that are of Indian descent,” he said.

“I was surprised to see how big the Indian community is at Cornell, it’s very united around here,” said Abhinav Sharan ’14, who was able to attend Cornell because of a scholarship created from Tata’s 2008 donation.

According to Mustansir Mukadam grad, president of the Cornell India Association, there are more than 400 members in the organization.

“The [Cornell India Association] has 3-4 events each semester, there’s a real sizable turnout. People are really interested in attending Indian-centric events. The community is pretty strong,” Mukadam said.

The reverse is also true, Mukadam said, emphasizing the positive connotations associated with the Cornell in India.

“Cornell is a brand name in India,” Mukadam added. “Cornell gets all the top Indian students to come here for their Masters and Ph.D. programs, especially [students from] I.I.T.”

Bruce, the vice president of University communications, echoed these sentiments.

“I think that that Cornell’s relationship with India is longstanding and very substantial,” Bruce said. “Cornell professors and various programs have been contributing from the Green Revolution all the way to today … By all evidence Cornell is very important to India, its government and its people.”

Original Author: Max Schindler