Bryn Mawr President Meets Higher-Ed and Industry Leaders, Alumnae and Parents on India Trip

Posted March 15th, 2010 at 5:03 pm.

Bryn Mawr President Jane McAuliffe and Rajendra Jagdale, director, Science and Technology Park, University of Pune

Bryn Mawr President Jane McAuliffe and Rajendra Jagdale, director, Science and Technology Park, University of Pune

On a recently completed weeklong tour of three Indian cities, Bryn Mawr College President Jane McAuliff’s intensive schedule of official meetings  was leavened by the hospitality of Bryn Mawr alumnae and parents of current students, who treated the president to a sampling of the Indian arts scene.

McAuliffe was traveling with U.S. Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter and senior officials from 13 other colleges and universities, including Michigan State University, Rollins College, Louisiana Community and Technical College, and the University of Kentucky, as part of the Institute of International Education’s U.S. University Presidents’ Delegation to India.

The delegation traveled to India to promote U.S. higher education and to enhance and expand linkages with Indian institutions. On each stop of the trip, the group met with senior higher-education officials, college and university students, and industry and government leaders.

The group’s travels began in Bangalore, where they visited the local campus of the Indian Institute of Management and the corporate headquarters of technology giant Infosys. In Pune they visited the University of Pune and Symbiosis University, one of India’s many new private universities. The last stop on the trip was New Delhi, where the group took part in the Emerging Directions in Global Education (EDGE) Conference; visited several higher education institutions, including the city’s Indian Institute of Technology; met with U.S. embassy officials; and lunched with the executive director of the United States-India Educational Foundation.

While in New Delhi, McAuliffe also made a trip of her own to visit Lady Shri Ram College for Women, the nation’s premiere women’s college.

“I had invited Dr. Meenakshi Gopinath, Principal of Lady Sri Ram, to our 125th anniversary  conference on women’s education next fall, and I was eager to meet her in person and tell her how much we were looking forward to welcoming her to Bryn Mawr,” says McAuliffe.

While India is home to many universities with very large student populations, the competition for admission to many of those schools rivals that found anywhere in the world, and there is a great need for broader access to higher education in the country.

“It was wonderful that our group came from such a wide range of institutions because it’s not just one model that’s going to be able to meet India’s higher-education needs. For instance, the community-college piece is absent in India and very much needed. They’re not going to be able to train all of their 18- to 22-year-olds with four-year undergraduate degrees. The country needs a lot of the sort of technical-skills training at which our community colleges excel,” says McAuliffe.

McAuliffe also sees a place for the liberal arts in a country known more for producing engineers than art historians.

“The liberal arts model is there, but the tendency is for the very best students to try to get into these IITs or IIMs because the social and parental pressures are towards linking very tightly one’s education with one’s professional aspirations,” says McAuliffe “But there’s more talk in India about the value of the liberal-arts model as we know it in the United States.”

“The liberal arts, more than any specialized program, is training for professional change. Today’s students in India, just like their American counterparts, are likely to change jobs and careers multiple times. That means they have to be constant learners and know how to learn effectively and efficiently. There’s increasing awareness in India that the liberal arts best prepare you for those challenges.”

While the trip was a busy one, McAuliffe did have time to meet with a number of alumae and parents of current students at a luncheon hosted by Bimla Bissell, mother of Monsoon Bissell ’93.

“It was a real highlight of the trip. Bimla was so generous. She held this beautiful luncheon and it was wonderful to meet with the alums and parents and everyone else who was there. A few hours later she picked me up at the hotel and took me to a gorgeous garden party. We then went to an art exhibit and a performance of classical Indian dance. I couldn’t have asked for a better host or more enjoyable way to end the trip,” says McAuliffe.

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