From David Skorton
MAR./APR. 2007 VOLUME 109 NUMBER 5

A Cornell Visit to India

cORNELL UNIVERSITY IS WIDELY recognized as an institution whose scope is global in every sense of the word. Each year we enroll more than 3,000 international students, who come to Ithaca from some 120 countries. A significant segment of our faculty is involved in research, education, and extension around the world, and on campus the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies serves as an umbrella for more than twenty interdisciplinary programs that have an international focus.

Cornell operates programs in several international locations. These include Doha, Qatar, where Weill Cornell Medical College became the first U.S. medical school to offer its MD degree overseas; Singapore, where the Hotel school offers a joint master of management in hospitality program; Rome, which has been the site of an Architecture, Art, and Planning program for many years; and China, where, among other initiatives, study at Peking (Beida) University and internships in Beijing provide exceptional educational experiences to undergraduates in the China and Asia Pacific Studies major. And, as I have discovered in my travels this year, Cornell alumni are vitally interested in the University and committed to its future no matter where they live.

Why, then, did I choose India for my first international trip on Cornell's behalf? (I was there from December 29 to January 8.) I wanted to build on Cornell's half-century of partnership with Indian colleagues and institutions. These partnerships, largely through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, have helped India feed its one billion people, and they continue to be important in a country where more than 50 percent of the workforce is in agriculture. The trip had four goals:

  • Build mutually beneficial partnerships with educational and research institutions in India;
  • Explore how the research and outreach of Cornell faculty, staff, and students may be of service to the people of India and thereby build stronger bridges between the two nations' cultures;
  • Make Cornell's presence more visible in India to government agencies, alumni, other universities, non-governmental organizations, and leaders involved in specific areas such as agriculture, biotechnology, and global health; and
  • Reinvigorate alumni affairs and development activities in India.

Guided by Trustees Ratan Tata '62 and Narayana Murthy, we had direct and fruitful conversations with university and government leaders in education and the sciences, as well as with the president and prime minister of India. The preeminence of our hosts offered eloquent confirmation of the importance India attaches to the work Cornell has done there in concert with our colleagues and partners. The quality of each meeting bespoke a genuine interest in expanding collaboration with our faculty.

During the trip, we visited with alumni in Delhi and Mumbai and were honored to be present at the birth of a new Cornell Alumni Club in Bangalore. Our alumni in India, as elsewhere, are a superb source of guidance and good counsel in future interactions with their country, and they act as enormously effective ambassadors for Cornell University and its students, faculty, and staff.

As former President Jeffrey Lehman '77 put it, in a particularly effective formulation, Cornell is a transnational university. Our future success depends on continued focus in the international arena--in India, China, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and other venues where Cornell's faculty, staff, and students can conduct research, build relationships, and learn more about the world in which we live.We can also provide resources and expertise, in partnership with local colleagues, to reduce the world's burdens while addressing our common challenges, even as we expand knowledge and teach our students to solve realworld problems.Whether discussing study abroad opportunities, working side by side with colleagues from other nations to solve significant problems in our societies, or welcoming international students to the ranks of our undergraduate, graduate, and professional student bodies, a continued focus on internationalization is appropriate and necessary.

What of our future in India? Because the most meaningful exchanges and partnerships occur not at the level of university presidents but at the level of faculty, I viewed my role on this trip as exploratory and representative of the interests of our professors and their students. In the coming months, I will be sharing detailed impressions of opportunities for Cornell in India with Provost Biddy Martin, the deans, and other academic leaders and faculty. Our continued partnerships as well as potential new collaborations suggest a bright future for Cornell in India.

-- President David Skorton
david.skorton@cornell.edu