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Why We Do What We Do

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Tuesday night (Indiana time)

It’s official: I’ve set my watch back to Indiana time, which means our 11-day trip to India has come to close.

I’m actually not really sure what time it is as I write this while flying high over the north Atlantic (we’re roughly above Iceland at the moment). All I know is I’m tired, satisfied with what we accomplished, a little sad to be leaving a fascinating land – and happy to be headed toward family and friends.

A thousand thoughts about India are running through my mind. Twice as many sights, sounds, smells and memories. I promise to share some of my favorites once I get home, get a little sleep and treat my lovely wife to a dinner that includes a nice piece of red meat and a salad.

First, though, I need to clear space in my brain. The idea for this entry was hatched a few minutes after we touched down in Hyderabad Monday morning for the last stop on our journey.

We were wheeling our luggage to yet another minibus with “tourist” emblazoned on the front when David Reingold, our executive associate dean at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, raised an issue that had been rattling around in the back of my mind for awhile.

(A quick aside: a song titled “Bloomington” by Elizabeth Eckert just popped up on my iPod, thanks to my wife who has loaded all sorts of interesting stuff that I would never otherwise discover. Never heard it before, but it’s making me smile.)

Anyway, I’m enjoying the fact that it’s not 95 degrees in Hyderabad when David says to me: “You know, we need to do an even better job of explaining why we do things like this because there are some people who think it takes away from what we should be doing in Indiana.”

I started to launch into a vigorous defense of the university’s international work and its obvious importance to the future of our students, faculty and the institution, fully realizing I was preaching to the choir.

I stopped. David, one of the many thoughtful, passionate and scary smart people I met on the trip, was right. Like it or not, perception sometimes is reality, which means we need to work a little harder to convince our constituents of things that may seem self-evident to us in the middle of things at IU.

So, here it is, as simply as I can put it. Just a few of the reasons why bringing the world closer to our students – and thrusting them and our good name onto the global stage – is so crucial to building the type of world-class university we deserve in Indiana.

  •  There’s Sarah, the charming and fearless 24-year-old IU School of Education graduate we met over dinner in Bangalore. Sarah had just come back to Bangalore to teach special education to middle school students after an internship experience in the city earlier this year. Sarah is a Noblesville native who thinks she will return to Indiana at some point to teach. You don’t think her experience in India will benefit students here at some point, do you?


  • There were the four American students we met on a tour of the University of Hyderabad Monday afternoon. The university is one of the top graduate institutions in India and runs a terrific “study in India” program for undergrads and grad students alike. These young women, brought together for the semester from California, Georgia, Mississippi and Evansville, were having a great time and learning a lot. They could just have easily been IU students having a life-changing experience, and maybe someday soon it will be.


  • There is Deepender Hooda, Dr. Narendra Jadhav and Michael Yoder. All three are IU alums who are playing important roles in India. Hooda, a member of Parliament, and Dr. Jadhav, a member of the country’s planning commission and one India’s leading voices on education, both returned to their homelands after earning a degree at IU. Yoder is the current U.S. Consul in Hyderabad. Having friends like that doesn’t hurt our name global recognition, or opportunities for our students.


  • There’s Infosys, the tech giant we visited in Bangalore.  Infosys runs an outstanding internship program and promised to put IU on its recruiting list for the first time after our meeting.


  • There are the research collaborations made possible by the agreements we signed with a number of universities. If that doesn’t mean all that much to some of you, consider this: IU faculty spent $500 million on research funded by outside sources activities last year, resulting in more than $1 billion in economic activity in Indiana. That means jobs and money flowing into our local economy.


  • There’s CH Kiron and his wife, whom we met in our hotel this morning. Kiron owns one of the leading media companies in southern India, and the couple had just returned from Bloomington where they had dropped off their daughter who is a freshman this year.  They gushed over their Bloomington experience, and I’m pretty sure we won’t be the only people they tell.


  • There’s Cummins, the Indiana-based diesel engine and power generation company where I was fortunate to work for eight years before joining IU in late June.  Cummins is a quintessential Indiana manufacturing company – and also probably the most global firm in the state. In fact, Cummins did $2 billion worth of business in India last year and $3 billion in China. At the same time, the company earned record profits and added several hundred jobs in Indiana in the past year in the middle of a lousy U.S. economy. Think it’s a coincidence?


  • There’s IU President Michael McRobbie who rightly has been making the point to anyone who will listen than we live in a global society where virtually every career path our students may take will have an international component. Or as he put it to me a couple days ago: “We need to prepare our students for when the day when they are working for a manager from another country, find themselves working on a team with people from around the world or are asked to take a job outside the U.S.” Smart man.


  • Finally, there’s my daughter, Sara. She’s currently in Copenhagen completing her final semester of study as a political science major at the University of Delaware. It’s her fourth overseas study opportunity, going back to the summer before her senior year in high school. Each one has broadened her view, made her more independent and confident, and given her a greater appreciation for different cultures. I don’t know where it all will take her, but I do know this: She will leave college far more prepared for the real world than I did.

What it comes down to is that being committed to expanding our reach to India (or China or South Korea or France, for that matter) doesn’t diminish our commitment to the place we call home.

Nearly two-thirds of our students come from Indiana and we’re getting a larger share of the very best the state has to offer. We’re also devoting more money than ever to scholarships and grants for in-state students. In fact, the average net cost of attendance (tuition and fees minus scholarships and grants) for in-state students this academic year is actually lower than last year.

It’s not a zero sum game. This is a case where we actually can have our cake and eat it, too. Cake anyone?

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1 Comment

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Hi Mark! Couldn’t agree more with your defense of IU’s international work and its importance to the future of the students, faculty and the institution!

Time on Sept 3rd just flew by. Unfortunately couldn’t get to speak to you that evening. Regards Sangeeta

Comment by Sangeeta Trehan on September 8, 2011 9:48 am

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