UMass leaders travel to India to strengthen ties

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The University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and other university officials have gone on a 12-day trip to India to strengthen the school’s existing partnerships while exploring new ones, according to the AP.

According to the AP, the delegation will meet with several Indian governmental, university and business leaders, as well as alumni and incoming students, from the New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.

On Feb. 12, education professor Sangeeta Kamat presented research on creating diverse and equitable campuses at Inclusive Universities: Linking Equity, Diversity and Excellence for the 21st Century, an international symposium and report launch held in New Delhi, India, according to a press release.

Kamat was the principal investigator on the joint research project between UMass Amherst and the KSP Women’s Studies Center at Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU).

The Inclusive Universities research is sponsored by the U.S. India Education Foundation and emphasizes the importance of making higher education accessible to all in order to keep up with the shifting demographics of India’s college-age population of 16- to 25-year-olds, noting that the student population today is more diverse among caste, class and linguistic background than in the history of higher education in India with more than half of the students being the first in their family to attend college as they are from poor or low-income families, according to a press release.

According to a press release, the study also underscores the importance of understanding how diversity exists within the campus and classroom, how it affects students from different backgrounds and how it influences their behavior and perceptions of other students.

“The report release is groundbreaking because it was one of the first climate studies done in an Indian universities building on the foundational work that has been done in the states led by Dr. Sylvia Hurtado. The conference and report are important moments for UMass and our partners on this project as we documented challenges and now continue to work together on solutions,” Enobong (Anna) Branch, the Associate Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer, said at the symposium.

According to a press release, administrators, faculty members and research teams from UMass Amherst and SPPU discussed campus climate theory, research and application and compared their understanding of issues of equity and inclusion in universities in the U.S. and India, at the symposium.

Other speakers included Chancellor Subbaswamy, College of Education Dean Cynthia Gerstl-Pepin and professor of education Ximena Zuniga as well as delegates from SPPU, such as director of the KSP Women’s Studies Center Anagha Tambe and Vice Chancellor Nitin Karmalkar, according to a press release.

“Like our peer institutions, we realize the critical importance of fostering a campus culture that supports the potential excellence of every member of our community. By embracing all the people, ideas and perspectives available to us, we create a richer and stronger learning and working environment. Fostering our differences truly strengthens our ability to identify new solutions and improve every facet of university life,” Subbaswamy said during his speech at the symposium.

According to the AP, the delegation also plans to include a renewal of a memorandum of agreement with Maharshi Dayanand University in Haryana regarding academic and research collaboration and a demonstration of prototype technology which removes difficult contaminants in drinking water and was developed by an engineering professor UMass.

Subbaswamy and members of the delegation will also meet with leaders of Reliance Industries, Ltd., according to the AP.

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