U to create India Center with state money

The center, approved by Pawlenty, would culture economic and research connections.

Marni Ginther

Though existing programs at the University have been promoting connections to India, a new center will soon tie those efforts together.

Last Wednesday, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed the omnibus higher education bill that includes a $150,000 appropriation for the University to create an India Center.

Like the University’s China Center, the new center would promote exchanges and collaboration with the economically growing country in areas ranging from education to business.

How the new center will meet those objectives, where it will be housed and who decides are still unknown. The bill says the Board of Regents “may establish an advisory council to facilitate the mission and objectives of the India Center,” but no such council has been appointed.

“How the University will move ahead with this center is still under discussion,” Senior Vice President of the

Academic Health Center Frank Cerra wrote in an e-mail. “The legislative session has just ended and we need to assess the best location and process for the center to succeed.”

The one-time appropriation must be matched by an equal amount of nonstate money, according to the bill’s text.

“Where and how we get the matching money is unknown,” said Meredith McQuaid, interim director for the University Office of International Studies.

“I anticipate that wherever (the center) is housed, the first few months will be spent sort of mining opinions around here,” she said. “What would people like to see? Where do we already have strengths in India? And then where do we go from there?”

McQuaid said she is scheduled to meet with State Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Eden Prairie, on July 3. By then, she hopes to have a better idea of where the matching money will come from.

Paulsen originally introduced the legislation as a separate bill in February.

“I came up with the idea last summer, when dealing with legislation on Chinese Mandarin language programs,” Paulsen said. “I thought India should have a similar opportunity, in terms of its size and role in the global economy. It only makes sense for the ‘U.’ “

Three main goals are outlined in the bill. One is to foster an understanding of the history, culture and values of India. The second is to promote economic, governmental and academic pursuits involving India. The third is to facilitate collaborative exchanges and partnerships in research, education and business.

A lot of programs at the University are already doing this. The School of Public Health and the Medical School have had ongoing relationships with schools and health organizations in India for years, said William Toscano, professor of environmental health sciences in the School of Public Health.

The new center will be a great way to bring all those efforts together, said computer science professor Shashi Shekhar. He points to the success of the University’s China Center.

“If you look at global trends, I think there are similar opportunities for Minnesota in building relationships with India,” Shekhar said. “So it’s probably time to have some entity come together centrally and coordinate (the University’s existing efforts).”