Insights From India: The wrap-up

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton offers final thoughts from a memorable trip to India

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton was in India Dec. 9-14 with a group of Washington University in St. Louis leaders and members of the McDonnell Academy Global Energy and Environmental Partnership (MAGEEP) to talk about global energy and environmental solutions and then meet with the university’s International Advisory Council for Asia.

He shares some final thoughts:

Our trip to India concluded Dec. 14 with the wrap-up of our meeting of the International Advisory Council for Asia (IACA). At our business meeting, we concluded that we would have the next meeting of the council in the spring of 2014 in Taipei, Taiwan. The IACA first met in Taipei in the fall of 1996, and the university has significantly expanded its partnerships in Asia since that first meeting.

Our McDonnell International Scholars Academy, our joint venture with Fudan University to offer our Executive MBA degree, and our research partnerships through our McDonnell Academy Global Energy and Environmental Partnership (MAGEEP) are a few examples of new efforts stemming from the meetings of the IACA. The IACA was launched to develop stronger relationships with our alumni and friends, to better understand Asian corporations and governments, and to establish ties with the leading academic institutions.

IACA chair David Conner (left) and Mahendra Gupta, PhD, dean of Olin Business School, at the Agra Fort near the Taj Mahal.

Since the founding of the IACA, the university has expanded its opportunities for students and faculty in connection with international programs. In December 2010, the Board of Trustees devoted a full meeting to international opportunities, and this led to a new committee of the board, the Global Engagement Committee.

We have appointed a university officer to oversee all international activities; the vice chancellor for international relations is James V. Wertsch, who works with academic and administrative leaders in all of our schools.

Our IACA meeting in India this year is the second meeting held there. Our first was in the spring of 2001. Much has changed in India since then, with a growing economy and ambitious plans for the future. But India remains a country of extremes, with examples of the latest in modern technology and a growing number of very affluent individuals to a large fraction of the population who are illiterate, poor and without access to energy, clean water, and nutritious food.

India’s current population is about 1.2 billion and is expected to grow significantly. India’s population is predicted to be significantly greater than that of China by mid-century. The growing and aging population alone brings India many problems, but immediate concerns are being addressed.

Through our work with McDonnell Academy partners the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT Bombay), and Jawaharlal Nehru University, Washington University is engaged in addressing important problems. Professor Gautam Yadama’s book, Portraits of the Energy Impoverished: Fires, Fuel and the Fate of 3 Billion, attracted much interest among media in both Mumbai and New Delhi, and this book highlights many of the interrelated issues being addressed in India and other parts of the world.

India is an exceptionally diverse country, with many religions, languages, traditions and cultures, and a weeklong visit is not adequate to see and experience all that is of importance in India. India is the world’s largest democracy and the English language is used widely. We have the opportunity to do much more in India, and our plans for a new Executive MBA with our partner IIT, Bombay, will be a new dimension of our education collaborations.

Old Delhi boasts a fragrant and bustling spice market.

At our McDonnell Academy partner meeting in Mumbai, we developed stronger ties to pursue research in both solar energy and in ways to approach the environmental challenges of using coal as an energy resource. Our collaborative work on energy and environment with our McDonnell Academy partners will be featured at our next meeting of McDonnell Academy partners in the fall of 2014 in St. Louis. Most importantly, in both Mumbai and in New Delhi, we developed stronger ties with leaders of India in academia, in corporations and among our alumni and parents.

Our week in India concluded with an outdoor luncheon at the beautiful home of our distinguished alumnus Gurpreet Singh and his wife, Kushal. Their hospitality included music, good food, and a presentation about Teach for India, an outgrowth of Teach for America. We had a relaxing and convivial time, with opportunity for good informal conversations about our future plans for engagement in Asia, and in India in particular. As Friday, Dec. 14, drew to a close, I relaxed on my 14-hour flight from New Delhi to Newark, N.J., to begin my return to St. Louis.

I arrived in Newark early Saturday morning to learn the tragic news from Newtown, Conn. My heart sank. I became overcome with sadness as I learned the details and scope of the tragedy. Our new friends in India extended condolences in the aftermath. Let us keep those directly affected by this tragedy in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

As this week ends, we conclude the first semester and prepare for a break and the beginning of a new year. It is my hope that all in the Washington University community have time for relaxation with their family and friends, and that 2013 brings you much joy and happiness.

Insights From India Day 1: The symposium opens

Insights From India Day 2: Working on collaboration

Insights From India Day 3: WUSTL’s global network expands

Insights From India Day 4: The IACA meetings open