The following guest post was written by Ryan Piurek, director of strategic communications at Indiana University Bloomington, while traveling in Delhi, India.
Fans of the popular sport of cricket here in India would call it a “six.”
Hoosiers would call it a “homerun.”
To anyone keeping score — including those here in Delhi, India, and folks back home in Indiana — Indiana University’s dedication Thursday evening of its new IU India Office, the first of the university’s two global gateway facilities (the other is in Beijing), would be deemed a game-changer and an important victory for a university on a continued quest to be one of the nation’s most internationally focused institutions of higher education.
The IU-India connection
While its new India center might’ve been officially introduced Thursday, IU is far from being a rookie player when it comes to India. Its connection with the country, in fact, goes back to the birth of modern India and even before then.
The first Indian student to graduate from IU was Konigapogu Joseph Devadanam, who earned an undergraduate degree in psychology in 1930.
In 1948, IU’s legendary 11th president Herman B Wells joined about 200 people from IU and the surrounding Bloomington community, as well as IU’s Indian students, to celebrate the first year of Indian independence.
Over the next six-plus decades, IU has built a powerhouse program for the study of India, including its history, languages and culture. The Madhusudan and Kiran C. Dhar India Studies Program at IU Bloomington is one of only a handful of such programs in the U.S. Faculty members in the program, located within the School of Global and International Studies, are engaged in research and teaching about India’s history and culture, including contemporary politics, law, literature and business. It is directed by Michael Dodson, who serves as academic director of the new IU India Office.
IU has also formed strong and productive partnerships with several of India’s top universities, including O.P. Jindal Global University, the University of Hyderabad, Symbiosis International University, Indian Institute of Management Lucknow, Indian Institute of Management Shillong, Elite School of Optometry and SHODH: Institute for Research and Development. And the university is continually exploring the possibility of new and meaningful partnerships. IU President Michael A. McRobbie even worked a meeting in around the office dedication at Ambedkar University Delhi. Established in 2007, the fast-developing city-funded university is grounded in the humanities and social sciences and features a strong emphasis on teaching social responsibility.
More than 1,100 Indian students are enrolled at IU campuses across Indiana. This figure represents a nearly 50 percent increase in the number of Indian students enrolled at IU over the past five years.
Additionally, India is a leading destination for IU students pursuing an overseas study opportunity, with more than 100 students currently studying abroad in the country.
Finally, there are about 4,300 IU alumni affiliated with India, who, along with the hundreds of scholars, dignitaries and students who have visited IU campuses, comprise IU’s ever-growing global community.
A new era of collaboration
The formal establishment of the IU India Office on Thursday evening in Gurgaon, a suburb of New Delhi and leading financial and industrial center, ushers in a new era in IU’s longstanding engagement with India. It also signals IU’s desire to work even more closely with leading Indian universities, businesses and other institutions, as well as the country’s social and cultural leaders.
“IU’s presence in India is indicative of our desire to learn about India on its own terms and to begin an exchange that will benefit both India and Indiana and strengthen the connections between India and the United States,” McRobbie said just before officially dedicating the new office, which will serve as a hub for university activities in the country.
Those activities will include scholarly research and teaching, conferences and workshops, study abroad programs, distance learning initiatives, executive and corporate training, alumni events and more. Indeed, many such events have already taken place since the 3,700-square-foot office, within the headquarters of the American Institute of Indian Studies, first opened its doors early last year.
Fittingly, on the morning of its formal dedication, as workers scrambled to put the finishing touches on the evening ceremonial event, the newly refurbished office hosted a workshop on “The Safeguarding of India’s Documentary and Cultural Heritage,” led by IU Bloomington professor of Central Eurasian studies Ron Sela. The workshop, which brought together IU faculty and several acclaimed artists, historians and cultural directors from around India, was a shining example of how the university expects to dramatically enhance its engagement here, for the mutual benefit of its faculty and staff and their Indian colleagues.
Soaring IU spirit
IU spirit was already soaring high as the evening sun set over Gurgaon and office director Michael Dodson welcomed (in English and Hindi) the 70 to 80 guests in attendance to what would be a special ceremony and momentous occasion in IU’s history of internationalism.
Indeed, it was truly a night to remember, as speaker after speaker — including Dodson; IU Vice President for International Affairs David Zaret; Michael Pelletier, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi; Vice Chancellor of O.P. Jindal Global University Raj Kumar; the Honorable Deepender Hooda, a member of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s parliament, and an alumnus of the IU Kelley School of Business; and, finally, McRobbie — shared his excitement and enthusiasm for the new office and the impact it would have on faculty, students and alumni in Indiana and in India now and in the future.
“Ours is a shrinking world that demands we all work together, which makes me very proud that my university had the vision and took the initiative to launch this important new facility,” Hooda said.
Hoosier pride was palpable as McRobbie unveiled a shiny new plaque commemorating the establishment of the IU India Office and then offered a toast to “the many future pathways of partnership that the IU India Office will help make possible.”
“Dhanyavad and Shukriya,” McRobbie added, sharing a warm Indian “thank you” to all those who helped make the new office possible and those who celebrated in the special occasion.
The president’s words alone would’ve been enough to send everyone home inspired and happy, but, the evening had one more memorable moment in store: a stirring and passionately delivered performance by acclaimed Indian classical musician and sarod virtuoso Ayaan Ali Khan, which put a marvelous coda on a milestone day for IU and its many alumni and friends here in the heart of India.