By Steve Kloehn and Sarah Nolan
Photo by Kuni Takahashi
“ This is a very important event for the University of Chicago because of what it represents about our commitment to academic work in India and with India.”
—Robert J. Zimmer
President of the University of Chicago
DELHI—Several hundred members of the University community and distinguished guests gathered for a three-day opening celebration of the new Center in Delhi, marking the occasion with academic panels, a gala dinner, and a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, March 29.
U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy J. Powell joined President Robert J. Zimmer and a prominent group of University leaders, supporters, and government officials in lighting a traditional lamp, then cutting the maroon ribbon.
“We take great pride in this facility and in the commitment it represents to collaboration in India and Asia, and to the University’s larger global engagement,” Zimmer told a full house at the Center, located near Connaught Place in New Delhi.
Ambassador Powell—a former teacher—told the crowd that education was a central element of the partnership between the United States and India, and that universities were leading the way.
“Your presence in Delhi underscores the very strong international interest of our top American universities, and we welcome you to this great city,” she said. “To bring this level of expertise and experience from both our Indian and American colleagues is truly going to be a unique opportunity for Delhi and for Chicago.”
The ceremony was webcast live, with viewing parties at the University’s Centers in Paris and Beijing.
The weekend began with a panel discussion among leaders in academia, business, and government, hosted by Zimmer and moderated by Raghuram Rajan, governor of the Reserve Bank of India and a distinguished service professor of finance, on leave from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Zimmer introduced the session with remarks about the University’s growing international presence.
“The Center in Delhi, together with the Centers in Beijing and Paris, is an important step in bringing a much greater global perspective to the University and to enhancing our ability to support our faculty and students’ work as they incorporate a global perspective into their own work,” he said.
Andrew M. Alper, chair of the University’s board of trustees, said he was delighted, though not surprised, by the enthusiastic turnout at the presidential forum and the gala dinner that followed. He recalled a trip to India last November in which alumni, parents, and friends expressed excitement about UChicago’s rich history of scholarship related to India, the potential impact of new collaborative work, and the positive experience of students in the College.
“In my role as board chair, I get to visit with alumni and friends from all over the world, and I don’t think we have a more enthusiastic and connected group of supporters than right here in India,” Alper said.
Panels reflect programs of inquiry
The Center in Delhi will promote scholarship through three broad programs: business, economics, law, and policy; science, energy, medicine, and public health; and culture, society, religion, and arts.
Three panel discussions on Saturday reflected those areas of inquiry. Titled “Visual Cultures in a Global World,” “Transnational Innovation in Science and Public Health,” and “Early Childhood Education,” the panels featured UChicago faculty in conversation with scholars from India.
Immediately following the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday afternoon, the Center hosted a Chicago Booth panel, titled “Improving Productivity: Private, Social, and Public Sector Perspectives.”
Joining Rajan in Friday evening’s discussion were Randall S. Kroszner, the Norman R. Bobins Professor of Economics at Chicago Booth; Shobhana Bhartia, chairperson and editorial director of the Hindustan Times Group; Chanda Kochhar, managing director and CEO of ICICI Bank; and Arun Maira, member of the Planning Commission for the government of India.
The wide-ranging discussion touched on topics ranging from federal bank policy to women’s health to the disruptive nature of social media. Panelists compared and contrasted the political cultures of the United States and India, and talked about mutual challenges such as changing workforce requirements and income inequality.
On March 30, the deans of Chicago Booth, the Humanities Division, and the Social Sciences Division participated in a panel discussion, titled “Interdisciplinary and Cross-Cultural Scholarship and Teaching,” with Prof. Gary Tubb, the Center’s faculty director, as moderator. A book discussion followed with Leela Gandhi, professor of English at the University of Chicago, and Amit Chaudhuri, professor of contemporary literature at the University of East Anglia.
The opening celebration closed with a reception in honor of UChicago faculty members Susanne Hoeber Rudolph, the William Benton Distinguished Service Professor Emerita, and Lloyd I. Rudolph, Professor Emeritus of Political Science.
The Rudolphs received India’s prestigious Padma Bhushan Award, the nation’s third-highest civilian honor, in recognition of distinguished service of a high order to the nation. The president of India conferred the awards at a civil investiture ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the president’s house, on March 31. Friday night’s gathering recognized the achievement with a standing ovation.
Rich tradition of scholarship with South Asia
In establishing the Center in India, the University of Chicago draws upon a long and rich history scholarship, research and teaching in and about South Asia. The Center will create new opportunities to attain broader and deeper understanding—through the open and free exchange of ideas and debate—of questions facing the region and the world.
Announced last October, the Center in Delhi is a home for research and education for UChicago faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates working in India and throughout South Asia. The Center provides new venues for them to work with Indian researchers and students representing a wide array of institutions, as well as other scholars from around the world. It will also be the site of regular programming that engages UChicago alumni and friends.
The Center in Delhi is an important addition to UChicago’s international presence. Delhi joins the University’s Center in Beijing, opened in 2010, and the Center in Paris, opened in 2004, in bringing together researchers and students to collaborate across the academic spectrum.
Building on the University’s presence in China, work is also underway on a Center in Hong Kong that will house a University of Chicago Booth School of Business Executive MBA program as well as other University programs.
Chicago Booth also has campuses in London and Singapore, where UChicago faculty teach in degree–granting programs. The University’s Oriental Institute has a presence in Luxor, Egypt, founded in 1924 and known as “Chicago House,” which documents ancient Egyptian inscriptions and works with Egyptian scholars on conservation, restoration, and site management. The University’s UChicago Research Bangladesh includes medical and research facilities in Dhaka and throughout Bangladesh that serve more than 100,000 people.
Originally published on March 26, 2014; most recently updated on March 31, 2014.