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Indian-origin academicians lead top global institutes

india Updated: Feb 09, 2014 02:15 IST
Vanita Srivastava
Satya Nadella

Indian-origin techies are not the only crowd that has made it big abroad. Scholars with roots in this country have also scaled the heights in the world of academics.

After Hyderabad-born Satya Nadella's appointment as the CEO of Microsoft, here's more good news for India.

Sanjeev Kulkarni, an Indian-American, has recently been appointed as the dean of the prestigious Princeton University Graduate School.

Another academician who has reached the top of the pecking order is Rakesh Khurana, who is also an Indian-American. He was appointed as the dean of the prestigious Harvard College last month.

The two are the latest addition to the list of a growing club of Indian-origin scholars assuming leadership roles at renowned global institutes.

In 2010, Nitin Nohria became the first Indian-origin head of the Harvard Business School. In the same year, University of Chicago's Booth School of Business named Stanford University professor Sunil Kumar as its dean.

"This is a natural consequence of the inflow of Indian-origin academics into US universities some 20-25 years ago... some of them are now taking major leadership roles," Kumar told HT.

Academic relations between India and the US have always been very strong, he said, adding this (the new trend) will make them even stronger.

Sri Zaheer, dean of the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, seconded Kumar.

"The US has an extraordinary... environment that has helped many immigrants reach leadership positions, not just in academics but also in industry.

"It is my hope that... all of us who have a soft spot for the home country can act as bridges, particularly in the education space in India, where there is much work to be done," Zaheer told HT.

Soumitra Dutta, who took over as the dean of Cornell University's management school in 2012, takes pride in being an IITian.

Although opening a campus in India does not figure in his immediate plans, Dutta wants to build stronger links with researchers and thinkers in India as part of a grand strategy to take Cornell to the world and vice-versa.

"This (the success story of Indian-origin academicians) is certainly a positive trend and is essentially born from a combination of two factors. Firstly, there are some bright Indians who are skilled, hard-working and are becoming increasingly global.

"The second factor is linked with the US. America is a country that is very open; where you come from and your background are not as important as how good you are at your work," Dutta said.