Brandeis builds its connections to India

Associate Vice President for Global Affairs Daniel Terris

WALTHAM, Mass. — Brandeis is pursuing a wide variety of initiatives aimed at connecting the university more closely with India by deepening student, faculty and alumni relationships with the world’s largest democracy.

In recent months, the university has hosted a seminar for mid-career civil servants from India, launched a new academic program in South Asian Studies, and brought a celebrated Indian musician to campus for a four-day intercultural residency.

"The Brandeis India initiative is an opportunity to pull together all of the people — alumni, faculty, students, friends of the university — who are working on India, working in India, who have been thinking about India, and to try to create a set of activities that will extend Brandeis' connections there for many years to come," said Daniel Terris, the university’s Associate Vice President for Global Affairs. The university has set up a Web site to serve as the hub of activities.

"I think the Brandeis India initiative is going to be able to build on Brandeis' strengths in social justice and in sustainable development in a way that's going to set what we do apart from a lot of other places," Terris said. (Read a full Q&A with Terris and Prof. Harleen Singh)

Brandeis and India have long been linked. More than 100 alumni have come to study at Brandeis from India; nearly 70 students from India — more than from any other country — have attended the university through the Wien International Scholarship Program; and 20 Indian students enrolled this fall at the Brandeis International Business School.

Under the direction of Harleen Singh, the Helaine and Alvin Allen Professor of Literature, and Sarah Lamb, chair of the anthropology department, the 2008-09 academic year marks the debut of the South Asian Studies Program. The new interdisciplinary program features courses on South Asian culture, literature, sociology, religion and Diaspora studies. The program is also hosting Smita Tewari Jassal, the university’s Madeleine Haas Russell Visiting Professor of Non-Western Studies, who is teaching two courses this year.

Singh said that the initial focus of the new program is to offer more courses to students and to do so in a more organized way. Eventually, she said, she believes program faculty and the Office of Global Affairs will build a uniquely Brandeis South Asian program in which students and faculty are deeply and personally engaged in the region.

Terris and Singh are asking for the help of the Brandeis community in building a global network of university alumni and friends with connections to India. Those who are interested are invited to contact the Office of Global Affairs at the Brandeis-India web site and join an email list.

In July, a group of 11 professionals from India visited campus to meet with Brandeis faculty specializing in sustainable international development and coexistence and conflict. The visitors are pursuing conservation-oriented master’s degrees with Indian government sponsorship at TERI, The Energy and Resources Institute, which is based in Delhi.

Shubha Mudgal, a well-known Indian singer as comfortable with Hindustani classical as current pop music, visited Brandeis Oct. 15-18 for “Passageways of the Soul,” a four-day MusicUnitesUS intercultural residency. She participated in a series of classes, discussions and workshops that concluded with a concert.

Other recent or upcoming Brandeis-India projects include:

  • Artistic explorationThe Women’s Studies Research Center hosted an exhibition of contemporary Indian women's art, “Tiger by the Tail: Women Artists from India Transforming Culture,” that challenged social oppression and gender discrimination, and provided new models for empowering women.

  • Scientific collaborationSupported by a Global Brandeis Fund seed grant, physics professor Bulbul Chakraborty is exploring a potential partnership with the new Indian Institute of Science Education and Research.

  • Faculty researchLamb has completed a book, tentatively titled "Aging Across Worlds: Elder Care and Cosmopolitan Families in India and the Diaspora," that is due for release in spring 2009.

More information on the initiative can be found on the Brandeis-India Web site and the Office of Global Affairs Web site.


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