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Coleman hopes to connect with alumni in India

By Jennifer Calfas, Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 25, 2013

Though she has already traveled to four international destinations during her tenure, University President Mary Sue Coleman has one last stop before her retirement in July: India.

On Nov. 11, just days after the launch of the University’s upcoming capital campaign, Coleman will travel to New Delhi and Mumbai to engage with civic and academic leaders, businesses and alumni.

With each activity, Coleman said she hopes to create and enhance connections in social-science research, medical sciences, business, and educational opportunities, among others. During her tenure, Coleman has also visited Brazil, Ghana, South Africa and China on behalf of the University.

“What I really hope is that we provide more opportunities for our students to really go and have a really robust experience,” Coleman said in a mid-September interview. “India is, by population, a huge democracy; it’s got growing pains, a rapidly growing economy and real issues. I think there’s a rich area for our students to engage.”

Collectively, students from India are the fourth-largest contingent of international students at the University. Coleman said she hopes to strengthen the University’s existing connections and develop more opportunities for students to experience the nation themselves.

A group that included James Holloway, vice provost for global and engaged education, and Political Science prof. Mark Tessler, former vice provost for global and engaged education, began to plan the trip more than a year ago.

A highlight of her itinerary includes the India Business Conference, which was started by the Business School in 2009. The conference — organized by the University of Michigan India Alumni Association — typically works under a theme related to the business and economic environment in India with a variety of keynote speakers at events held in both Ann Arbor and India.

“This is a way to bring business leaders — sort of the leading edge in thinking about the business environment for the future — together,” Coleman said. “It’s a way to get our alums, and particularly our business alums, so I think that’s going to be a really exciting opportunity.”

In an August interview in Mumbai, University alum Bharat Govinda, secretary of UMIAA, said Coleman’s visit will be highly symbolic for the University’s extensive alumni network in India. According to UMIAA’s Facebook page, the group claims 1,400 active members — though there are countless more that live and work in India.

“There’s a sense of camaraderie,” Govinda said of alumni connections. “If me or my friends bump into someone and realize there’s some kind of Michigan connection, there’s immediately a whole different connection.”

Govinda added that UMIAA is looking forward to an update from Coleman on current affairs at the University and in Ann Arbor.

Before attending the business conference in Mumbai, Coleman will visit the National Council of Applied Economic Research, a social science institute; the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, which has worked with the University of Michigan Health System since 2010. She will also give a keynote speech on the strengths of large, world-class universities at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry in New Delhi.

Coleman will visit Delhi University and the newly established Ashoka University to improve study-abroad connections for students.

Holloway, who will be accompanying Coleman on her trip, said faculty from the Survey Research Center, LSA and the medical school will travel to India to assist Coleman in her outreach. Dean of Engineering David Munson and Dean of Business Alison Davis-Blake will join the group when they travel to Mumbai for the business conference.

Holloway added that the individuals accompanying Coleman were invited to help develop lasting partnerships and collaborative projects to ensure that they are “sufficient value” to the trip.

The respective attendees’ departments will fund the trip and the Office of the President will cover Coleman’s expenses.

Daily Staff Reporter Amrutha Sivakumar contributed reporting from Mumbai, India.


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