Levin’s trip to India proceeds after disaster



Yale President Richard Levin and several top administrators and faculty members traveled to India last week where they met with top officials in the Indian government, forged ties with educational and business leaders and connected with Yale alumni in an effort to improve the University’s visibility and to boost student recruitment in the region.

Levin and members of the delegation held meetings with top officials in the Indian government, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President A.P.J Abdul Kalam and Finance Secretary Rakesh Mohan ’71. The University extended its Fox Fellowship graduate student exchange program to Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, established a joint research program with the Great Lakes Institute of Management, and inaugurated a Yale Public Health Office in India which will oversee several AIDS-related projects.

The delegation’s trip to India came in the immediate aftermath of the Dec. 26 tsunamis that devastated much of South Asia and killed at least 10,000 in India, but University officials said the disaster did not affect their schedule, and they did not witness firsthand any destruction in the coastal regions.

The trip attracted extensive coverage in the Indian press. Levin personally conducted at least 20 print and broadcast interviews, all in an effort to cultivate Yale’s image among business, political and educational leaders in India.

“We are very much more knowledgeable about what kind of opportunities there are in India. It’s a fascinating place,” Levin said Sunday in a telephone interview from Singapore, where he is attending meetings.

University Secretary Linda Lorimer, who also traveled to India, said Yale’s representatives were well-received at the numerous events in the four Indian cities they visited — Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai.

“I think we were gratified by the hospitality offered throughout the trip and the eagerness to have Yale be more interested in India going forward,” Lorimer said. “I was struck particularly by the vitality of India and its forward progress measured in many ways.”

Levin formally opened the Yale Public Health Office in Chennai as an affiliate office of the New Haven-based Yale Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS. The office will oversee several research projects relating to HIV and AIDS throughout India, said CIRA associate director Kim Blankenship, who periodically travels from New Haven to India to conduct AIDS research.

Levin, Mohan and South Asian Studies Council chairman T.N. Srinivasan, three Yale-trained economists, were featured at a symposium in Delhi on India’s role in the global economy.

“Having Yale faculty be part of the delegation on these trips is extremely important since they convey the academic foundations of the institution,” Lorimer said.

Levin said the delegation’s meetings with business leaders will help create internship opportunities in India for Yale undergraduates.

Levin’s wife, Jane, the director of the Directed Studies Program, traveled with the delegation and showcased Yale’s undergraduate curriculum — especially Yale’s engineering program — and residential college life to representatives of approximately 20 leading secondary schools in Delhi. She said the educators were particularly interested in the American model of liberal arts education.

“I think the meeting was very valuable,” Jane Levin said. “They were very interested in having more contact with the Yale admissions office, that is something I think will definitely happen.”

Arvind Bhaskar ’07, from Delhi, who attended some of the delegation’s official events, said he thinks Yale’s recruitment efforts and recent investments in science and engineering will attract more Indian students to the University. He said most educational leaders in India have a high opinion of Yale and its academic resources but have often overlooked Yale because its traditional strengths have not been in the sciences.

“By and large the number of students in India has been increasing a lot over the past few years,” Bhaskar said. “Yale’s certain to benefit from that.”

Yale Club of India Secretary Pradeep Varma GRD ’95 said he thinks the Yale delegation successfully increased the University’s visibility during the trip.

“I think they should stay the course and increase operations throughout India,” Varma said.

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