India Center committee created

Lindsay Guentzel

The University’s Office of International Programs announced the creation of an India Center Exploratory Committee Nov. 7, a group that will investigate the purpose and impact of an India Center on campus.

The exploratory committee comes after the success of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s Oct. 20 trip to India, where the governor and a 73-member delegation of Minnesota business leaders, government officials and media traveled through the country exploring trade and investment opportunities.

With funding from the University and the Legislature, the committee “will investigate further the feasibility, impact and sustainability of such a center,” according to a press release from University’s Office of International Programs.

The idea for a committee was started when Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Eden Prairie, proposed a bill in February that requires the University’s Board of Regents to establish an India Center. The center’s mission, according to the bill, will be to strengthen economic and cultural relations between India and Southeast Asia, Minnesota and the United States.

The bill, which Pawlenty signed May 30, appropriated $150,000 to the University for the center.

Paulsen, who traveled to India with Pawlenty, said there was a lot of support for an India Center from the delegation as well as people they met in India.

“There was just a lot of positive feedback that this was just the right thing for a state to do because it would reap benefits down the road,” he said.

The India Center could create more jobs, as well as enhance relationships within the University’s Academic Health Center and Medical School, he said.

“The University is going to have to decide exactly what that mission is, whether it is health- oriented or IT-oriented,” Paulsen said. “I think clearly the resources are there.”

Paulsen said people in India are positive about improving their country’s economy and are excited about the growing connection with Minnesota.

Joan Brzezinski, the assistant director of the University’s China Center, which works with Minnesota organizations to increase relations with China, said the India Center should be easier to start than the China Center because India has a better relationship with United States now than China did when the China Center was started in 1979.

“I think people see India as the next big and great thing coming as far as the economy and the economic development,” she said.

Brzezinski said for the center to be successful, there needs to be a connection between the University and the community.

“I think you have to have very strong support from the University and the faculty and students and staff here,” she said. “But you also need to be connected to the community because you really cross those lines continually.”

Because the India Center would be doing a lot of the same professional and cultural work, she said she can see the two centers working together.

While the state’s goal is to find a private donor to match the center’s $150,000, Paulsen said he hopes the University uses all its resources on the India Center and the exploratory committee.

“My goal is just to see the University really capitalize on this seed money and show the Legislature and show the state how they can build some momentum around this,” he said. “The ball is kind of in the University’s court now.”