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Coleman: Learning in India just as important as teaching

November 16, 2013
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MUMBAI, India—The University of Michigan wants to learn as much as it wants to teach, and that is why it’s building partnerships in India and welcoming the country’s students, President Mary Sue Coleman said Saturday.

Coleman made the remarks on the last day of her weeklong visit to India. The trip focused on expanding student exchanges, exploring new research collaborations and engaging with alumni.

Speaking to alumni in Mumbai, Coleman said that a public university’s job is not to sit in an ivory tower, so “we are committed to bringing U-M to the world.” She said she was pleased that U-M’s newest partnerships were being solidified in India.

“Since becoming the university’s president 11 years ago, I’ve worked with faculty to build our academic partnerships in China, Ghana, South Africa and Brazil,” said the president, who will retire next year. “I’m proud that we have deepened our work in five countries on three continents because it means deeper experiences for students and faculty.”

U-M Indian Alumni Association President Ritesh Bawri, a graduate of the Ross School of Business, said that passion keeps the alumni involved and enthused. “President Coleman is the first University of Michigan president to visit India, and it has recharged us all,” he said.

Earlier Saturday, Coleman described U-M’s engagement with India in the keynote speech at the fifth annual India Business Conference, sponsored by the U-M India Alumni Association.  She said the university’s students, scientists and researchers have been involved with the South Asian country for decades.

“Today, we have doctors in Delhi learning about trauma and emergency care,” she said. “Our law students and faculty work with their peers at Jindal Global Law School. Michigan nursing faculty are teaching and learning at Salokaya College of Nursing in Delhi. Medical students are traveling between Ann Arbor and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.”

Before flying to Mumbai, Coleman on Friday inked a new agreement with Delhi University that provides opportunities for collaborative research. It will also allow U-M students to participate in a unique program involving long train trips across India. The educational journeys are inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, who rode the rails as a way to reacquaint himself with his homeland when he returned after living in South Africa for two decades.

Coleman, who recently donated $1 million for global scholarships for U-M students, believes that international-learning experiences are vital. Exploring new ways for students to study or do internships in India has been a key mission of her visit.

U-M President Mary Sue Coleman lights a lamp with other dignitaries - a common ritual in India that pays tribute to Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge.

U-M President Mary Sue Coleman lights a lamp with other dignitaries – a common ritual in India that pays tribute to Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge.

The new agreement with Delhi University was praised by Dinesh Singh, vice chancellor at the institution, which has 400,000 students.

”We are excited to be a partner for University of Michigan. Our partnership must be in the same vein as the partnership between both the countries,” Singh said.

On Thursday, U-M expanded a partnership with the All India Institute of Medical Science, one of India’s top academic medical programs.  The relationship involves collaborative  research on cancer, genetics, immunology, trauma and disaster medicine.

Coleman began her visit to the medical institute with other dignitaries by lighting an ornate golden lamp – a common ritual that pays tribute to Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge.

“We know that we have much to learn about India,” she said. “India is at the forefront of wrestling with many pressing problems in health. We know we don’t have all the answers. And we’re convinced that many of the solutions involve partners working across cultures and borders on innovations that to date have eluded us.”

Joining medical staff in purple surgical gowns, Coleman toured the institute’s trauma center, the focus of the first agreement U-M signed with the Indian medical program in 2012.

Improving trauma care is a serious challenge in India, where traffic accidents kill more than 150,000 people each year on increasingly congested highways and byways.  Many people die because they don’t get treatment in time.

Discussing the significance of the agreement with U-M, Mahesh Misra, director of AIIMS, said his institute “will benefit immensely from our collaboration in gastroenterology, liver, pediatric surgery, acute care surgery and organ transplantation. Our efforts are to jointly attract national and international funding.”

Dr. Joesph Kolars, the U-M Medical School’s senior associate dean for education and global initiatives, said, “We’re aiming to develop a robust platform for collaboration that will facilitate research on diseases common to both our countries and the education that will strengthen our abilities to improve health.”

U-M President Mary Sue Coleman and Pramath Raj Sinha of Ashoka University celebrate a new partnership.

U-M President Mary Sue Coleman and Pramath Raj Sinha of Ashoka University celebrate a new partnership.

Being engaged with India is vital for universities like U-M that want to have a global impact. The country is the world’s biggest democracy with a population bigger than the U.S., Europe and Latin America combined. India has brilliant students, scholars and entrepreneurs searching for partners who want to tackle the world’s biggest challenges.

Speaking at a major business conference Thursday, Coleman said that she was impressed with India’s commitment to its universities and research institutes, which have an extraordinary purpose.

“A university exists to promote a limitless marketplace of ideas—a marketplace in which ideas are tested, refined and sharpened by competition. That is why we matter. We embody the aspirations of a society that turns to us for solutions, cures, and answers,” Coleman told her audience at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, one of India’s largest and oldest business groups.

 Coleman’s trip began Wednesday with a signing ceremony for a memorandum of understanding with Ashoka University, one of the first private liberal arts universities in India. Under the agreement, the two universities will share opportunities for faculty exchange, innovative teaching methods, opportunities for student exchange and mutual visits of fellows and research scholars.

Coleman said U-M is looking forward to working with Ashoka to create tomorrow’s leaders. “A liberal arts education is an unparalleled foundation for a life filled with creativity and innovation,” she said.

U-M President Mary Sue Coleman holds an agreement signed with Shekhar Shah, director-general of the National Council of Applied Economic Research.

U-M President Mary Sue Coleman holds an agreement signed with Shekhar Shah, director-general of the National Council of Applied Economic Research.

Pramath Raj Sinha, founder and trustee of of Ashoka University, said the school is “a collaborative philanthropic vision that aims at providing a transformative academic experience to Indian students.”

Another memorandum of understanding was signed Wednesday with the National Council of Applied Economic Research, the leading survey research institute in India. The council is much like U-M’s Institute for Social Research, and the agreement involves the exchange of students, technology and researchers.

Before leaving for India, James Holloway, U-M vice provost for global and engaged education, said the visit will provide an opportunity to build new partnerships and enhance existing ones.

“India offers unique opportunities for our students to engage in global educational experiences that benefit both the people of India and the students who participate there,” he said.

Another member of the delegation, Farina Mir, director of U-M Center for South Asian Studies, said global education has become central to student learning.

“Our world is increasingly globalized and our partnership with Indian institutes will provide opportunities for experiential learning for our students,” she said. The partnerships also will allow Indian students to conduct research at U-M.


On Saturday, Coleman finished her trip by saying, “We want to learn as much as we want to teach.”

She told alumni, “Michigan’s doors are wide open for Indian students to have the kind of educational experiences you did. I hope you will spread the word and recruit the best to follow in your footsteps.”

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Tags: higher educationIndiaMary Sue ColemanmedicineresearchsciencetechnologyUniversity of Michigan

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