Passages to India
June 19, 2012
|Cornell Professor of International Business Ilan Alon connects with locals at Jama Masjid in Delhi, India. (Photo by Jenifer Ruby).|
It’s been more than two years since President Lewis Duncan participated in an Institute of International Education trip to India, an experience that started in motion a dedication to increasing ties with the world’s largest democracy.
“Rollins and India are a very good complementary fit, and recent changes in policy in India have opened the doors to inviting delegations to explore opportunities for partnership,” Duncan said. “There are some very fine schools in India that would make natural partners for places like Rollins. And, of course, Rahul Gandhi ‘94 is one of our alums.” The moment, it seemed, was ripe to start charting a strategic course to India.
The commitment to forging ties with India, both in the academic and business worlds, has manifested itself in the creation of the Center for India and South Asia, currently directed by Cornell Professor of International Business Ilan Alon.
12 Days in India
This summer, Alon led a President’s Internationalization Initiative (PII)-sponsored trip to India, which took 14 faculty and staff members on a 12-day journey to Agra, Delhi, Chennai, and Bangalore. In addition to cultural experiences such as cricket matches and yoga classes, the trip gave attendees the opportunity to meet with Indian universities and businesses, thus beginning the process of creating partnerships and cultivating future collaborations.
|Professor of Psychology Sharon Carnahan speaking to Indian students.(Photo by William Svitavsky)|
“The India trip was a way to stimulate interest, demand, and curiosity with the goal of creating a tremendous number of opportunities to bridge the distance between Rollins and India, including student abroad trips, Fulbright opportunities, service work, and research collaborations,” Alon said. “From an admissions standpoint, 4 students from India will begin their college career a Rollins in the 2012-13 academic year. We hope to continue welcoming scholars from this country as part of our mission to internationalize the campus.”
International faculty trips also give rise to inter-campus collaborations, something Assistant Professor of Anthropology Jonathan R. Walz thinks is a critical benefit of group travel. Walz, who participated in the India trip, is already speaking with Visiting Associate Professor of Chemistry Luis Martinez about creating an archeological chemistry course, an endeavor that arose as a result of them their rooming together on the trip.
“Everything we are doing is about creating bonds between people for the purpose of facilitating greater understanding and collaboration,” Walz said. “Inevitably, someone interested in internationalization recognizes that the greater familiarity people feel with different areas, the more comfortable they are with talking about them, and it expands their world.”
No strangers to India, Walz and Alon traveled there in January as part of the Institute of International Education’s delegation of high-level administrators. Accompanied by representatives from 10 other U.S. colleges and universities, Walz and Alon met with their counterparts at diverse institutions in India, and spent a week visiting campuses and meeting with higher education officials in Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Delhi.
"This initiative, as well as many other international initiatives, is making Rollins a truly vibrant international space."
- President Duncan
“Our approach is that we want to develop a center of excellence that positions Rollins as a thought leader on India, provides service-learning to students in India, and gives our students the opportunity to learn in and about India,” Alon said. “We’re talking about looking for a meaningful engagement beyond simply looking at ways to recruit students from India.”
Some of these ways will be discussed this fall when Rollins will host an Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) conference for representatives of other India studies programs. “We are bringing all the India experts here to Rollins in October to look for collaborative models, to share best practices, and to see if there are opportunities to share resources and leverage each other,” said Alon, who is co-organizing the conference with Walz.
“India and China together constitute more that a third of the world’s population,” Alon said. “If you want to be a global citizen, you need to know Asia, and particularly India and China. These are places that Rollins wants to develop expertise in.”
As much as President Duncan is looking forward to blazing a trail that will give Rollins students the chance to travel to India, he is also excited about welcoming Indian students here. “We obviously encourage students to study abroad. But even if you do that once or twice, you still have only been exposed to a couple of cultures,” Duncan said. “If our aim is to prepare students for global citizenship, we have to create a vibrant global community here on campus. This initiative, as well as many other international initiatives, is making Rollins a truly vibrant international space.”