Harvard’s South Asia connection gets $25 M infusion from steel czar

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Tiona Zuzul DBA ’14 conducts field research during the Kumba Mela, a religious gathering that every 12 years creates the world’s largest pop-up city (credit: Meenah Hewett via Harvard.edu)

The South Asia Institute at Harvard University has changed its name after a windfall from Indian-origin steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal. He and his family’s Mittal Foundation announced a $25 million gift to establish an endowed fund for the Institute which will now be called the Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute, the university announced Oct. 11.

Over the last ten years or more, the Institute has funded faculty and student research and built a network of South Asia specialists and a better understanding of the region and its challenges, and just this year, Harvard as a whole offered some 143 South Asia-related courses, the university said in a press release.

“International centers like the South Asia Institute at Harvard University serve as a vital conduit between the University and the world we study,” Harvard President Drew Faust is quoted saying in the press release. “The generous support from the Mittal family is a testament to both the important work being done by this community of scholars and students and the continuing impact it will have in the region.”

Mittal, chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel company, said, “South Asia has played a dynamic and influential role in the development of our world since the very first civilizations. Ensuring that we fully understand its history and unique dynamics is a critical enabler in helping to shape a successful future.”

“As someone who was born in India, the long-term prosperity of India and its neighboring countries matters a great deal to me and my family,” Mittal added, crediting Harvard with being one of the world’s “greatest” learning institutions.

Founded in 2003, the South Asia Initiative became a University-wide interdisciplinary institute in 2010 under the leadership of its current faculty director, Tarun Khanna, the Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at Harvard Business School. Khanna thanked the Mittal Foundation and said the additional monies will enable expansion of ongoing work relating to South Asia.

The Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute covers Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, as well as diaspora populations from these countries, including Indian-Americans. It currently engages more than 250 faculty from a variety of disciplines across Harvard and peer institutions; provides annual funding for more than 50 students to participate in research, internships, and immersive language study; supports postdoctoral fellowships; hosts visiting artists at Harvard; sponsors lectures, conferences, and leadership training in the region and on campus; and works with government, academic, and civil society organizations in-region, especially through its local offices in India and Pakistan, the press release said.

 

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