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Provost Ravi V. Bellamkonda leads Emory delegation to India
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Emory representatives in India included (l-r): Katie Busch of Advancement and Alumni Engagement (AAE); Natalie Cruz of the Office of Global Strategy and Initiatives; Provost Ravi V. Bellamkonda; professor Lalita Kagliotla; Ally Howard of the Office of the Provost; and Nikhil Singla, Emory country director of India. Not shown are Hanna Hope and Shelsey Monroy of AAE.

In March, Ravi V. Bellamkonda, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, traveled to India with an Emory University delegation to meet with alumni, incoming students and key constituents, signifying the importance of India to Emory.

The delegation included members from Advancement and Alumni Engagement (AAE) and the Office of Global Strategy and Initiatives (GSI), as well as Nikhil Singla, Emory country director of India. They embarked on a week-long trip centered around three events in New Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai, expanding on a similar trip in March 2023.

“This was an incredible opportunity to connect with Emory alumni and families, and to explore ways we could further deepen Emory’s already strong presence in India,” Bellamkonda says. “The learning opportunities there and the research our scholars do there are critical to the university’s success, so I was honored to travel to India and nurture our partnerships.”

Meaningful trip highlights

With the rising numbers of Indian international students and young alumni at Emory, Bellamkonda’s 2024 trip to India focused on meeting with prospective students, alumni and Emory families. He also explored opportunities to partner with Indian universities and educational institutions to recruit students for graduate programs at Emory.

The Delhi event welcomed 50 people, including three Emory students participating in a study abroad program consisting of sequential stays in India, Argentina and South Africa. India is one country where Bellamkonda and GSI staff are working to expand study abroad opportunities for Emory students.

“As a student currently studying health equity in India, the opportunity to meet with traditional healers, study health interventions across three different states and even visit the Taj Mahal has been incredibly impactful to my academic and personal development,” notes Oxford College student Asmita Lehter, who attended one of the events.

“Some of the memories I'll cherish most include staying up and chatting with my homestay family, and traveling to and from class on auto rickshaws, an experience you truly can’t find anywhere else,” Lehter says. “Knowing that I have the support and connection to Emory even when we're studying in an entirely new environment is something for which I'm truly appreciative."

The largest event in Mumbai welcomed nearly 75 attendees, including alumni who shared positive stories of their Emory experience, new graduate students who were able to network with classmates and staff, and parents of incoming undergraduate students who heard from current parents about the orientation and first-semester experiences.

Alum Aditi Chandwani took the opportunity to reconnect and engage with the Emory network.

“I moved to Mumbai about a year ago, and I sorely missed the Emory community and was very excited to hear about the event in Mumbai,” Chandwani says. “It was wonderful to hear from the provost and his wife Lalita Kaligotla [a professor of the practice and senior director for leadership and engagement at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing], who told us about all the strides and progress Emory has made. I’m now attending another alumni meet-up next month and am very excited to engage with the alumni community further in Mumbai.”

In addition to large group engagements, other delegation members pursued opportunities to deepen connections in India. Singla and GSI associate director Natalie Cruz met with the Fulbright commission to discuss current collaborations with U.S. university counterparts in India and with prospective undergraduate students at several prominent international schools in Bengaluru and Mumbai.

Provost Ravi V. Bellamkonda speaks to reception attendees in Mumbai.

Emory’s significant engagements in India

According to GSI data, India is the top country for faculty engagement and has vast research capabilities. In the last decade, more than 200 faculty members have significantly engaged in work in India and more than 900 co-authored publications have been produced between Emory faculty and Indian researchers.

During the 2022-23 academic year, more Emory research grants were focused on India than any country outside the U.S.

Emory’s diverse work in and with India ranges from research in vaccines, diabetes and cancer, to scholarship related to Emory’s world-renowned collection of Telegu manuscripts, to the unique programming of the Emory Compassion Center, which builds on the university’s longstanding relationship with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Emory Compassion Center recently celebrated 25 years and has a well-established Tibetan Studies study abroad program in India.

Emory’s extensive work in India led to the 2019 creation of an overseas affiliate post to foster new partnerships and expand opportunities for Emory to engage in meaningful research to address key challenges in India and around the world.

Singla is the Delhi-based country director of Emory India Research and Education Innovation LLP, and works closely with Emory faculty and community members to provide on-the-ground support with India activities.

“The Emory-India initiative has expanded and accelerated the development of critical in-country collaborations that highlight Emory’s commitment to impactful and sustainable engagement with diverse stakeholders in India,” says Singla.

Emory faculty members who have significant ties in India include Rafi Ahmed and Venkat Narayan, among many others.

Ahmed, director of the Emory Vaccine Center (EVC) and professor in the department of microbiology and immunology within the School of Medicine, created a partnership and research lab in 2008 with the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) located in Delhi. Research at the EVC-ICGEB lab focuses on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, hepatitis C, dengue virus, chikungunya and malaria.

Narayan founded the Emory Global Diabetes Research Center, a global network that connects researchers from Emory, the U.S., India and beyond to engage in world-class research on diabetes and other related non-communicable diseases.

The School of Medicine is also working closely with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) — one of the most highly ranked and prestigious higher education institutions in India — as they establish a new research-oriented medical school and MD/PhD program with related exchanges.

Beyond the health sciences, the Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies (MESAS) department in Emory College of Arts and Sciences offers a major and minor in MESAS with a concentration in South Asian Studies, a language minor in Hindi and Tibetan and courses on South Asian history, culture and politics.

Student and alumni connections

In addition to strong faculty and research relationships in India, Emory has a growing number of international students and alumni from the country.

The university currently enrolls 359 international students from India, a 50% increase over the past decade. The Indian Student Association hosts a large off-campus event each year to celebrate Diwali, drawing hundreds of student attendee. There are also multiple Indian and South Asian student organizations focused on culture, music and dancing.

Over the past five years, Emory has added chaplains and resources in the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life to better support religious traditions and communities from South Asia. In addition, Emory Campus Life has added a new Asian Student Center to help support this diverse community as well.

Alumni networks in Delhi and Mumbai are growing, as more Emory graduates move to India.

“We strive to connect the alums, keep that Emory spirit alive and establish potential connections for business or otherwise,” says alum Krishna Gupta, New Delhi vice president of the Emory India Network. “With guidance from AAE staff, our goal is to further develop a proactive India chapter that will easily connect and reconnect Emory alumni, find career opportunities, volunteer, engage in mentorship or just meet over a coffee.”

Provost Ravi V. Bellamkonda and others met with current and incoming Emory families during their recent visit to India.

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