Partnership 2020 Quarterly Newsletter

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Partnership 2020: Leveraging US-India Cooperation in Higher Education to Harness Economic Opportunities and Innovation is a project funded by the U.S. Department of State and executed by the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) playing a key advisory role. This is a three-year project with most of the activities taking place in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

This quarterly newsletter serves as a way for college and university leaders, U.S. and Indian policymakers, and other relevant stakeholders to receive updates on Partnership 2020 work, new funding opportunities, policies, employment opportunities, and best practices in higher education partnerships.

How: Best Practices in U.S.-India Higher Education Partnerships

In every edition we feature an article from a higher education leader explaining how they launched a U.S.-India partnership and what they are doing now. This edition's piece is by Dr. Irfan Nooruddin, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani Professor of Indian Politics in the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

The challenge of international education is application of theoretical ideas in practice. Universities promise innovative pedagogy that challenges narrow disciplinary boundaries. But, for a generation of students who aspire to create global impact, the question of how to facilitate meaningful application of their ideas abroad is pressing. This is why the Partnership 2020 platform and initiative is so vital.

At Georgetown, I built a course called the India Innovation Studio with my colleague, Professor Mark Giordano. The experience provided hard-won lessons for how to build meaningful academically rigorous partnerships in India, and what challenges must be overcome on campus here in the United States to make the partnerships viable.

Each year, since its inception in 2016, the India Innovation Studio has tackled a key policy challenge facing the Indian state—droughts, sanitation, irrigation, transportation infrastructure—and worked with local government authorities in India (mainly in Maharashtra) to apply the ideas we develop in class in the field. Supported generously by philanthropy, all our students are given the opportunity to go to India at least once, often twice, where they meet with the politicians, bureaucrats, and civil society leaders they have been studying. The result is magic in a bottle.

So, how do you build the partnerships that make this work? With a lot of good, generous friends in India. The most important lesson I have to impart is that sustainable partnership is a two-way street. Our Indian partners open their doors, minds, and hearts, forcing us to answer the question of what we can give back in return. Our answer is that we are going to be there for the long-haul—we return each time to our old friends, even as we make new ones. These are ties that bind, and, if tight enough, they can support a whole structure on that foundation. It takes repeated investment and lots of patience.

The bigger challenges were posed on campus here in the United States. From the global education office to the university lawyers, not to mention the byzantine bureaucratic university rules governing travel bookings and travel insurance, the real obstacles are at home, not in India. This perhaps is the hardest question for others seeking to build meaningful partnerships with Indian institutions: is your university actually capable of being a good partner? If the answer is truly yes, then the opportunities India offers are boundless.

What: A Deep Dive into a Bi-national Project

In every edition we highlight a particular bi-national project and its current or planned outcomes. This edition's piece is by Dr. Kapila Rohan Attele, Chair, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Chicago State University (CSU). 

Left: CSU and JNTU-K sign their first MoU at JNTU-K in Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh; Dr. Kapila Rohan Attele signs the MoU on CSU’s behalf. Right: Dr. Tulasi Ram Das, vice chancellor, JNTU-K at CSU in Illinois, Chicago.

CSU’s interactions with India began in 2011, when we sought the advice of the then U.S. consul general (CG) of Hyderabad while looking for a suitable partner institution; she suggested Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University at Kakinada (JNTU-K). Thereafter, CSU attended the US-India Higher Education Summit hosted by the U.S. State Department . The CG of India in Chicago suggested that we apply for the U.S.-India 21st Century Knowledge Initiative Awards, grants that were introduced in July 2012. The then vice chancellor of JNTU-K, Dr. Tulasi Ram Das, visited CSU in July 2013, followed by senior administrators and computer science faculty. The grant was awarded in 2014.

The grant enabled faculty and constituents from JNTU-K and some affiliated colleges to visit CSU. Through these visits, the project did the following:

  • Held leadership training for JNTU-K faculty, preparing them to assume future leadership positions
  • Initiated joint research projects in cryptography
  • Embedded entrepreneurship and innovation in the computer science curriculum and demonstrated this through activities at the CSU Department of Mathematics and Computer Science’s Innovation Lab.
  • Enhanced the operations of JNTU-K’s incubator:
    • Engaged U.S.-India software companies, at least one of which is now working with the incubator
    • Exchanged ideas on how university incubators work by visiting the incubator at the Illinois Institute of Technology and Chicago’s Accelerator 1871

Even though the grant has since ended, our activities with JNTU-K and affiliated colleges are sustained through webinars, joint research activities, and curriculum development. In addition, CSU is now engaged in the Vaibhav Summit and looks forward to advancing our engagements with JNTU-K and the Telangana State in implementing India’s new National Education Policy.

Special Feature:  The Public Health Imperative

Special features aim to enlighten readers on the progress of a Partnership 2020-funded higher education partnership. The following special feature is authored by Ms. Anubhooti Arora, higher education policy specialist at the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.

Boston University School of Medicine Leads Tuberculosis Research in India

An extraordinary U.S.-India research partnership that is currently being funded under Partnership 2020 is Vitamins and Latency in Tuberculosis (VITAL – TB). Tuberculosis is one of the most pressing public health challenges India faces, with the threat of multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis strains. The disease affects over 2.7 million Indians every year, with significant economic and public health implications. Through this research grant, the Boston University School of Medicine and its partner, the Jawaharlal Institute for Postgraduate Medical Education and Research in India are trying to explore the connection between micronutrient deficiency and onset of tuberculosis. The goal of their study is to examine whether micronutrient deficiencies cause tuberculosis and whether the disease can be reversed with a patient’s improved nutritional status/profile. This is an extremely important and crucial study to explore and understand the impact of micronutrient deficiency on immune response in the case of tuberculosis.

Multidimensional Project Impact

This project is clearly important for understanding tuberculosis, its causation, and its reversal. Tuberculosis disproportionately affects disadvantaged and underserved Indian populations. Hence, this study will provide policymakers and public health professionals the opportunity to design effective programs to safeguard the health and well-being of vulnerable Indian communities. For U.S. scholars and researchers, this project offers the unique opportunity to study the epidemiological and statistical disease profile of at-risk communities. Overall, this project will lead to an exchange of scientific knowledge and practices in the fields of epidemiology, biostatistics, immune response, and infectious diseases between collaborating U.S. and Indian academics and researchers, and enhance our people-to-people ties.

The importance of investing in infectious disease control has never been greater than it is today. The outcomes and recommendations of this project can contribute to addressing the challenge of tuberculosis, a disease that adversely affects millions of the world’s most vulnerable populations.