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University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel and a delegation of University officials spent the past week in India meeting with alumni, government officials and business leaders in the days preceding the “The New Face of Tomorrow: A Summit on Future Technology with U-M Leadres & Startups.” This year, the conference is taking place Nov. 8 and 9 in Bangalore and focuses on future tech developments by University alumni and startups in India. 

The trip, which is Schlissel’s first time representing the University in India, is part of an effort to forge stronger ties with the nation and develop research and business connections overseas. Schlissel announced his trip to University students, faculty and staff at last month’s Leadership Breakfast. Schlissel, who has traveled to China and South Korea in previous years, said international travel is a major part of the University’s mission of global education. 

“Our ability to partner internationally, exchange ideas and provide opportunities for faculty and students across borders is at the core of our history and of our future,” Schlissel said to a crowd of nearly 200 students, faculty and staff. “Engagements in India have been central to our growth as a global university.”

Before the trip, the Economic Times published an op-ed written by Schlissel. In it, Schlissel stressed the scale of the University’s collaboration with India and said the University will continue to prioritize international learning despite the current political climate.

“My additional pledge to all of you is that the University of Michigan will continue to work to remain open to scholars and collaborations across international borders,” Schlissel said. “In recent months and years, we have strived to support students, faculty and staff from all countries as U.S. policies have shifted and become less predictable.”

According to an email from University spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen, Schlissel traveled within India from Nov. 4 to 8 to meet with the country’s Minister of Education, Minister of Health and University alumni affiliated with the Tata Group, a major Indian multinational conglomerate. Broekhuizen said these meetings are meant to share resources between the University and India and discuss future collaborations. 

“President Schlissel is there to meet with U-M Indian alumni, business and government leaders and understand how to collaborate to support high impact, mutually beneficial work,” Broekhuizen wrote. 

According to a report from the Office of the Registrar, about 700 Indian international students are currently enrolled in the University, making India the third-most populous country of origin for University students after the United States and China. The University also has various connections to businesses and other projects in India, most notably through the Ross School of Business. 

In 2011, faculty and students at the Business School founded the India Initiatives to connect Business students to opportunities for employment and research internationally. The initiative is included under the general Multidisciplinary Action Projects course, a program for MBA candidates that allows students to work directly with companies to develop business solutions. 

LSA sophomore Anirudh Duvvuri is the co-chair of the Michigan India Conference, a student organization that hosts a conference on campus each year related to the growth of the Indian economy. Last year, the ninth annual MIC event was focused on contrasting and analyzing emerging markets, or countries whose economies are still developing. Duvvuri said the fact that many of the MAPs collaborate with Indian companies shows how connected University students and faculty are to India’s economic and business interests. 

“A lot of the top alums from the University of Michigan in India went to the Business School,” Duvvuri said. “So I feel like all of those connections and the history the school has with India has put it in a position where it has been more engaged.” 

The University has also focused some of its efforts on introducing issues in India to students across all departments and in LSA specifically. The winter 2014 LSA theme semester was “India and the World,” with the stated goal of emphasizing the importance of India in an “increasingly globalized world.”

Even with these programs, Duvvuri said the focus on the Business School has made it difficult for students interested in other disciplines to become involved with issues relating to India to the same extent Business students are. He said he hoped Schlissel’s visit would allow for the development of international programs not just in business, but possibly in art or engineering as well. 

“I feel like, traditionally speaking, the University’s engagement with India in different businesses and institutions in India has been very siloed,” Duvvuri said. “You have the Business School which would be very aggressive, they would have a lot of these programs (…) with different companies in India. And they were very well plugged-in to the Indian ecosystem. But then the other schools do not have that same level of engagement or were not equally aggressive in pursuing opportunities in India.”

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