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India Studies Fund

India Studies Fund

  • The India Studies fund allows us to broaden the spectrum of regular course offerings on India, helping to promote awareness of India both within and outside the university. The fund makes possible the appointment of faculty who present dynamic courses that enhance students' knowledge of the region and culture, as well as provide leadership skills necessary to advise business, government and educational institutions on matters relating to India.

    In the early 1990s, a number of Illinois faculty began discussions about the need to supplement the University’s course offerings and research on India and South Asia in general through the creation of an India Studies Chair. The sense of urgency for creating such an institution kept increasing as the Indian and Indian-American student population at Illinois was growing dramatically through the 1990s—and has continued to do so into the twenty-first century, surpassing some two thousand. Plans for developing an India Studies Fund drive finally crystallized in 1996, as the Program in South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies was preparing “India 50”, a series of special events to celebrate India’s fiftieth anniversary of Independence in 1997. Faculty from virtually all colleges of the university were involved in the planning, as was the UIUC Indian Student Association and the Indian Cultural Society of Urbana-Champaign. Since then, the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies has regularly organized or contributed to academic and cultural events concerning India. In particular, it facilitated an “India 60” conference in 2007 and has prepared a series of events to celebrate “India 70” in 2017.

    Up to this point, financial support for the Fund has come from Illinois faculty and members of the local community. While the results have been relatively modest, interest income from the Fund made it possible to establish an India Studies Lecture series, bringing to our campus distinguished scholars, artists, and activists. As the Fund grows, the scope of activities can become broader and more intensive, with the potential of more extended campus visits, workshops, or even short courses.

    The ultimate goal, of course, remains the same as in 1996—to raise funds for a “rotating” India Studies Chair, an arrangement under which prominent scholars and public intellectuals representing different areas of interest to our students would be invited to join Illinois faculty for a semester to offer courses in their areas. This arrangement would enable us to offer the greatest possible variety of courses over the four-year cycle that most undergraduates are at Illinois. The emphasis would be on faculty and courses dealing with aspects of traditional and modern India that supplement courses offered at Illinois, such as Cultural Anthropology and Archaeology of India, Classical Indian Music Appreciation, Indian Literary Traditions, and Indian Religious, Philosophical, and Scientific Traditions. An endowed India Studies Chair could contribute to an increased awareness of India’s distinguished cultural heritage, its great economic achievements since Independence, and its even greater future potential as one of the world’s most powerful trading partners.

    Beyond its obvious benefits to students of Indian ancestry, establishment of an India Studies Chair will have several other positive effects. It will enable the University of Illinois to provide better background and training for students planning on careers in U.S. businesses with interests in India. It will improve the University’s ability to provide leadership in advising business, government, and educational institutions on matters relating to India. And last, but by no means least, it will help increase awareness of India both within the University and outside.

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