Columbia professors Upmanu Lall (far left) and Vija Modi (second from right) recently spoke at a conference in Mumbai, India on Urbanization and the Challenges facing India in infrastructure, resources and housing where more than 200 alumni attended.
Photo provided by Gutenberg Communications
As Columbia University works to deepen and expand its long-standing connections to South Asia, University officials have announced a plan to co-host a series of events in 2007 in India, a country that is rapidly becoming a major economic, social and academic force on the global stage.
"Columbia has a long history of connections with India on which we intend to build significantly in the years ahead," said Nicholas Dirks, Vice President for Arts and Sciences and a professor who specializes in India studies. "At a time of extraordinary growth and vitality in India, it is especially critical for us to enhance our deep intellectual ties by developing new kinds of relationships between Columbia and India's business, political and academic leaders. We are excited by the opportunities for more extensive collaborations in research and public service as we are working to provide greater support for students from India to pursue undergraduate and graduate studies at Columbia."
Urbanization Panel in Mumbai
The event series kicked off on Jan. 9 with a panel discussion in Mumbai on "India in an Era of Urbanization—Challenges Facing Infrastructure, Resources and Housing." Over 200 people, including many Columbia alumni, attended. Naresh Fernandes (JRN'97), now editor of Time Out Mumbai, moderated the event, which was co-sponsored with the Asia Society, India Centre.
Commenting on the discussions afterwards, Vijay Modi, professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia and one of the panelists, said that the audience had clearly recognized the "importance of infrastructure—housing, transportation, water and energy—to India's economic future." He added that the time has come for public and private sectors to build consensus on how to move forward, noting that additional economic and scientific research will be crucial in meeting the nation's infrastructure goals.
Other panelists included Deepak Parekh, executive chairman and CEO of Housing Development Finance Corporation, and Adi Godrej, chairman of the Godrej Group, as well as Columbia faculty members Akeel Bilgrami, Johnsonian professor of philosophy and director of the Heyman Center for the Humanities; Reinhold I. Martin, associate professor of architecture; and Nicholas Dirks, Franz Boas professor of anthropology and professor of history and Vice President for the Arts and Sciences.
Economic Conference in New Delhi
On Jan. 19, Columbia Business School cosponsored, with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), a conference in New Delhi on "Prospects for the World Economy after the Recent U.S. Election." The event featured such high-ranking Indian leaders as Pelaniappan Chidambaram, finance minister; C. Rangarajan, chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister; Kamal Nath, commerce and industry minister; and Sunil Mittal, vice president of CII and chairman of Bharti Enterprises Ltd. Panelists from Columbia include R. Glenn Hubbard, dean and Russell L. Carson professor of finance and economics at Columbia Business School, and University Professor Jagdish Bhagwati.
Also Heading to India This Year
In addition to these alumni events, several Columbia faculty and students will journey to India this year for policy events and academic projects. Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute, will participate in the seventh annual Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, to be held in New Dehli on January 22-24. And starting in March, two groups of Columbia Business School students will head to Bangalore, Mumbai and New Delhi to boost their understanding of India's industry.
Columbia & India
Columbia has a long history with the Subcontinent. In addition to having many distinguished alumni—the architect of India's 1949 constitution, Ambedkar (1891-1956), was educated here—the University has forged enduring partnerships with several of India's leading research institutes and academic institutions. More than 800 Columbia alumni now live in India, and there are many distinguished Indians on Columbia's faculty, such as the economist Jagdish Bhagwati and the philosopher Akeel Bilgrami. Last year, more than a dozen Columbia faculty traveled to India to present their research findings or to work on collaborative projects with their Indian counterparts.
In the past 10 years, under the leadership of Dirks and President Bollinger, Columbia has taken steps to revitalize South Asia studies. Reflecting this, enrollment in courses with South Asia content is at an all-time high.
Columbia has hosted several recent academic forums with a focus on India—most notably, the conference "India: An Emerging Giant," convened by Columbia's business school and its school of international affairs (SIPA) this past October and featuring commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath and Arun Shourie, India's former privatization and technology minister. And the business school recently announced a new partnership with the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), the centerpiece of which will be an international study program for students of both institutions.