Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Final Reflections on the Journey

            For me the trip to India was an insight into a part of the world and its people which was entirely new to me.  Going literally to the other side of the world brought me in contact with people who were warm, gracious and hospitable to a degree I had hardly ever experienced in my life.  From our visits to colleges and universities to our visits to companies like Deere and Rockwell-Collins to sharing a meal in with an Indian family in their home to attending mass in the dark at 6:00 in the morning in a parish church in Hyderabad, all of it left me with a sense of a people with an ancient and rich culture.  The trip also showed me both the high-powered hi-tech centers of densely populated urban areas to the countryside where people were living in make-shift housing much as they have been for centuries.  The contrast between wealth and poverty were stark.  The energy of the people was palpable, and their pride in their culture and history was evident wherever we went.
            For us, the possibilities of joining with various groups in India appear great.  I was heartened to see us take some steps with several institutions of higher education which will, in time, provide for student exchange and potential collaborations by faculty on research topics of mutual interest.  Dave and I greatly appreciated Arun’s cultural sensitivity and insights which helped us in our conversations at every point and, I’m sure, prevented us from making many unintentional cultural missteps.
            All of this seems to me to take us one step closer to being a university where the sense of the wider world will grow stronger each year, a place where our students, indeed all of us, can become more aware of the global village we all inhabit.
            India, and these two weeks, will remain with me for a very long time.

Arun: Left Moline for India on March 7th, just about fourteen days ago. Journeyed through New Delhi, Hyderabad, and Pune before returning back to New Delhi to take flight back to the US. As I look back, days moved fast, appointments and places blurred into each other; it felt good to meet colleagues and strengthen existing relationships, and also feel the promise and prospect of new and exciting next steps for the College of Business and SAU. We are beginning to understand the role of US-India educational cooperation frameworks and the work of facilitating institutions, and we glimpsed modern India in motion.

The last two weeks saw a great push forward on SAU's India agenda. As I review our trip two things come to my mind: Consolidation and Platform for Growth. We signed an MOU with St. Francis College consolidating the groundwork done by our Center for International Education and COB in the last couple of years. We undertook significant discussions with University of Hyderabad and FLAME School (Pune) for study abroad, research, and other scholarly exchanges. The discussions with varied institutions, regulators, and US companies in India can be platforms for future growth.

On a different note, I feel a great relief too. What were Sr. Joan and Dave thinking, coming with me to India? Well, they were thinking: food, customs, protocol, heat, food, hovering helpers, saying no, bottled water, autorickshaws, traditions, blog, right-of-way on city streets, buffaloes on Cyberabad roads, heat, traditions, and did I mention food and heat? The differences in culture, weather, traditions, educational practices, and protocols made for some interesting situations. Overall, I am glad that Sr. Joan and Dave had fun too on the trip.

I write these comments on Sunday morning, Delhi time.

Last night we arrived, tired from the day's travel from Pune.  I mutter, wrestling to get the internet service to work in this comfortable hotel. I look out the 5th-floor window. A man stands in his underwear 100 feet away on the roof of the next-door building. Since it is not Bathsheba, I look again and see laundry drying in the hot Delhi sun. Five floors below and across the street another man walks along a row of nicely potted plants in his courtyard behind a tall masonry wall.

The College of Business strategic road map lies on the window-side desk next to this computer: Strategic Issue II: Foster Global Awareness and Skills....Students will be prepared to be effective professionals in a global environment.

Breakfast. I visit with a man from Portugal. Working out of a German office, he manages several manufacturing operations, including one here in India. He talks about the wonder of this country. He talks about the quality of his product, with tolerances measured by the micron. He speaks about corporate settings where a worker of one caste might supervise another of an upper caste; a complicated situation.

Much of our trip has been in a prosperous and modern slice of the nation. We have had meetings in  sparkling facilities with gracious professionals. We dined with a warm and welcoming family. We have seen enough to know we have also touched down in a land in which the economic contrasts are huge, yet the middle class is expected to double in the coming several years.

While this journey was lived by just a few of us, may we learn from and alongside the people of India. May the story belong to many.