The last time University President Richard Levin visited India, his trip came less than two weeks after the tsunami that devastated much of South Asia Dec. 26, 2004.
As Levin departs this weekend for his second trip to India as Yale’s president, India faces serious challenges once again, although this time the difficulties are more economic than oceanic. Levin will take time on his visit to address the global financial crisis that has slowed growth in India, though he is also expected to announce new programs that will bolster ties between Yale and the world’s largest democracy.
“We’re trying to increase our engagement in India,” Levin said by phone this week. “It’s a country that is emerging as one of the leading powers in the world, and we want to build a broad and deep set of connections with it.”
George Joseph, who oversees South Asian relations for Yale’s Office of International Affairs, said the visit will help raise the University’s profile in a country where Oxford and Cambridge were long considered the world’s premier educational institutions because of a strong British colonial legacy.
Along with Joseph, Professor K. “Shivi” Sivaramakrishnan will join Levin on the weeklong trip. Sivaramakrishnan, chair of the South Asian Studies Council at Yale, added that the two additional trips Levin will make to India over the next year will play a large role in developing the Yale brand.
“We want to develop recognition of Yale,” he said. “Because then we can attract great students and great professors.”
Levin will arrive in India Sunday evening and will begin his work in earnest Monday morning with a speech at the convocation of TERI University in the nation’s capital of New Delhi. His address, focusing on the role universities can play in combating climate change, will be similar to talks he has delivered in Tokyo and Copenhagen this year.
The trip coincides with the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit 2008. Levin, the Frederick William Beinecke Professor of Economics, will participate in a plenary session of that conference alongside India’s finance minister.
At that session, Levin will address the state of the Indian economy in light of the current global financial troubles. Later Tuesday, he will speak at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. He will spend Wednesday and Thursday in Mumbai, India’s financial capital.
Levin will also sit for interviews with Indian newspapers and television news outlets in both cities.
He will take time to meet with Yale alumni and parents who live in India; these more personal sessions are largely centered on fundraising. Indeed, Levin’s trip, which Joseph and others spent the better part of six months planning, is in part a reflection of Yale’s already strong connection with India. Joseph said there are 130 students from India enrolled in the University this year.
Important as internationalization is to Levin, though, he also has other priorities: the president’s trip to India was scheduled so he could still attend both the football game against Princeton this weekend and The Game against Harvard next weekend.