Staggering economic growth and an abundance of talented young minds (half of the country’s 1.21 billion population are under the age of 25) have positioned India as a priority nation for many Canadian universities, including the University of Alberta. There are around 500 Indian students studying at the U of A, about 75 academic staff with ties to India, and 11 research agreements and memorandums of understanding with Indian institutions and organizations. There are also various scholarships available specifically for new undergraduate students coming from India. Here, we take a look at some of the University’s many connections to this rapidly growing nation.
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- The University of Alberta Research Internship Program was launched in February 2011 with Indian institutions IIT Bombay, IIT Kharagpur and the University of Hyderabad. In 2011, 22 students from partner institutions were accepted to the program, with the majority hosted by the Faculty of Engineering. There were also 29 Indian interns accepted to the U of A under the MITACS Globalink program, and 30 interns from Gujarat Technical University funded by Geoglobal—a Calgary company helmed by CEO Paul Miller, ’98 BSc.
- Ties are being strengthened with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)—Bombay through a $200,000 International Research Partnership signed in 2009. Activities include faculty workshops, internships at U of A for IIT Bombay students, and visits by IIT Bombay professors.
- For four summers, the Petrotech Society, comprised of the top oil and gas companies in India, has sent a group of executives and R&D division leaders to Canada for a one-week training program organized by the U of A’s School of Business. These “Industry Education Tours” offer up a series of on-site mini-forums where participants visit advanced, industry-focused, unconventional energy research or production sites to discuss current and potential developments in energy sources.
Professors Kamaljit Kaur and Mavanur Suresh from the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences are two of five researchers who joined Thomas Thundat, an engineering professor and a Canada Excellence Research Chair, to find a way to develop low-cost medical devices for health monitoring. A joint workshop at the Indian Institute of Technology—Bombay (organized with support from the Canadian and Indian governments as well as the U of A) proved successful with researchers collaborating for future projects.
- An ambitious $4.9 million project managed in partnership by the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences and India’s MS Swaminathan Research Foundation will aim to alleviate poverty and malnutrition in three rural communities in India. An ALES research team—composed of professors Nat Kav, Brent Swallow, Ellen Goddard and Miles Dyck, ’08 PhD, as well as three ALES graduate students and their counterparts from the MS Swaminathan Foundation—are introducing intercropping, the practice of planting multiple crops in the same area. Plants that require different nutrients or different sunlight conditions can share farmland, increase diversity and be more resilient against pests. Read more...
- Beyza Ural Marchand, assistant professor in the Department of Economics, studies the impact of globalization on economic development in India. Her research looks at how household welfare is influenced by trade liberalization through labour income and consumption channels; how changes in parental labour supply due to tariff reductions affect child schooling; and how foreign investment in India affects individuals with different productivity related characteristics.
- The Indian Students’ Association has grown to over 300 members since its inception in 1991. Led by current president Vishal Vaidya—himself hailing from Pune—ISA provides a network of support for Indian students, including airport pickup for students new to Edmonton.
- U of A International offers various scholarships specifically for undergraduate students from India, including the $20,000 U of A - India Centenary Scholarships.
Under the direction of Sharmila Mathur—hailing from Jaipur—the Department of Music’s Indian Music Ensemble is rooted in the rich tradition of classical Indian music through group instruction and performance. Members learn the basics of raga (melody) and tala (rhythm), through instruction in singing, tabla (drums) and sitar (plucked lute). The Ensemble has qualified and devoted instructors like Ojas Joshi (tabla), Kamaljeet Bajwa (vocal) and Sharmila Mathur (sitar). They are regularly featured at the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology’s "World Music Sampler" and the University of Alberta International Week.
- Sushanta Mitra, is an associate professor in the U of A’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and is the director of the Micro and Nano-scale Transport Laboratory (MNT) located at the National Institute for Nanotechnology. MNT conducts studies related to transport processes, which are occurring at micro and nano-scale levels for various engineering applications. Mitra is the lead faculty member on the India Regional Council, and, together with Thomas Thundat, is the lead on the new Indian Faculty Association. He was also recently named a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers—a distinction reserved for those whose work provides “solutions that benefit mankind.”
- Regula Burckhardt Qureshi, director of the U of A Centre for Ethnomusicology, is a specialist in South Asian, Islamic and Canadian musical practices. Qureshi—who first discovered Hindustani music in Lucknow—is currently the U of A’s representative for the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute.
- Through a donation from a local Indian couple—Saroj and Prem Singhmar—the Singhmar Chair in Classical Indian Polity and Society was established in the Faculty of Arts in 2007. The position was filled in 2008 with the arrival of Aloka Parasher-Sen, a leading academic from the University of Hyderabad.
Tania Spilchen, ’01 BSc, founded One! International Poverty Relief, a volunteer organization working toward the betterment of life in Mumbai, specifically through education programs for children. Following a university internship in India, Spilchen began by teaching eight children from a small slum area in Khar Danda, a suburb of Mumbai. Today, One! has grown to 10 full-time and part-time teacher/social worker staff in India, along with additional staff and volunteers from all over the world, including Edmonton songstress Erica Viegas, ’06 BCom. Viegas’ experience teaching street children inspired her song “Thank You.” The song is downloadable online and a portion of the proceeds from the album are donated to One! International.
- Avinash Vashistha, ’85 MSc, was recently appointed by Accenture—the world’s second-biggest tech consulting firm—as its managing director for India. He was also appointed co-chair of India operations.
- Andre Bourassa, ’72 MA, is the president/director of Gatineau, QC-based SOPAR (Society for Partnership), a non-profit organization devoted to international development in India. SOPAR promotes sustainable rural community development through community empowerment and capacity building, and has helped over 2 million villagers gain access to clean drinking water. It has also helped establish one of the largest development networks for rural women, as well as an international training centre for non-governmental organizations specialized in community development. Active in 2,500 villages, SOPAR has worked exclusively in India for 34 years and has operations based in Warangal.
Sheetal Mehta, ’94 BA, founded Shanti Microfinance, a charity that works with partners in Gujarat, India, to provide capital for entrepreneurs in villages and slums. Ms. Mehta’s current home base is London, UK.
- Praveer Asthana, ’82 MSc, ’88 PhD, has been working in the Ministry of Science and Technology of the Government of India since 1989. Praveer worked for the launch of the Mission on Nano Science and Technology, an umbrella programme, which promotes all aspects of nano science and technology in the country. Asthana’s efforts have resulted in the funding of a large number of fundamental scientific studies, educational programmes, centres of excellence and sophisticated characterization facilities in the country. He plays an important role at both policy and operational levels in the Nano Mission.
- There are about 100 alumni currently living or working in India who have received honorary degrees from the U of A including such high-profile individuals as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, ’97 LLD (Honorary); agriculturalist MS Swaminathan, ’10 DSc (Honorary); and development journalist P. Sainath , ’11 LLD (Honorary). Another prominent alumnus and significant player in India’s oil industry is I.L. Budhiraja, ’64 BSc(Eng), president of the Petroleum Exploration Division of Reliance Industries Limited.
Sharon Riley, ’10 BSc(Ag), is currently living and working in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. “Varanasi is situated on the banks of the River Ganges, and is the oldest continually inhabited city in the world,” explains Sharon. “It is considered to be the 'holy city' by Hindus (pilgrims flock here by the thousands), and it is in India's most populous state with a population of 199 million. Uttar Pradesh is amongst the most impoverished regions in the country—and the world.” Here, Sharon is interning with World Literacy Canada, which offers adult literacy classes, preschool classes, social enterprise programs, scholarship funds, health programs and open access community libraries. She writes: “My days are spent in a small community library in Varanasi. Children come to read, play, socialize, draw, write stories, learn computers, participate in music classes, and just hang out when they have nowhere else to go. Children as young as 3 will wander into the library from the streets to spend a few hours learning and playing.” She adds, “I've been enjoying developing friendships with the library regulars, being part of the spectacle that is Indian festivals, spicy food, beautiful traditional clothing, and even a late afternoon dip in the holy river itself.”
- In 2010, Chelsea Halvorson, ’10 BA(Aug), and former student Lindsey Lindballe took part in the biennial Augustana Tour of India, which included visits to New Delhi, Amritsar, Agra, Jaipur, Vadodara, Hyderabad, and Kochi—a train journey covering more than 5,300 km in 28 days. Every other year Augustana offers the three-week summer study tour, which focuses on the intersection of religion and development. Some of the students’ experience is showcased in a YouTube music video below called “Poker Train” written by and featuring Lindballe and Halvorson. Augustana’s next summer study tour of India departs in July 2012.