RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, and GURGAON, India -- Achieving new milestones in its strategic effort to be among the nation’s most internationally focused universities, Indiana University has dramatically strengthened its engagement in two nations, India and Saudi Arabia, where the university’s ties are among its deepest in the world.
In the span of 72 hours, beginning Oct. 28, IU formalized a university-wide partnership in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with King Saud University and dedicated its IU India Office, a home base for university activities across the country and the first established of its two global gateway facilities.
While in Riyadh, IU President Michael A. McRobbie also presented Sami Baroum, a 1992 Ph.D. graduate of the IU Kelley School of Business and one of the Middle East’s leading business executives and entrepreneurs, with the Thomas Hart Benton Medallion. The medallion is given to individuals who have achieved a level of distinction in public office or service and have exemplified the values of IU.
India and Saudi Arabia rank second and fourth, respectively, in the number of international students who study at IU campuses across Indiana. More than 8,500 international students are enrolled at IU this fall, including nearly 1,200 Indian students and nearly 600 students from Saudi Arabia.
Additionally, IU boasts longstanding partnerships with leading institutions of academia, business and government in both countries.
Below is more information about the university’s activities in each country:
McRobbie is the first IU president to visit Saudi Arabia in more than 30 years; the last was John Ryan in 1983.
On Oct. 28, McRobbie and King Saud University President Badran Al Omar signed a university-wide partnership agreement between their respective institutions. The agreement is expected to build upon a longstanding collaboration between both universities' schools of dentistry.
Over a number of years, 26 King Saud University students have earned advanced degrees in dentistry from IU. Currently, nine of the 90 master’s students at the IU School of Dentistry are from King Saud University. The two schools of dentistry have been formal partners since May 2013.
In signing the new university-wide agreement, IU and King Saud University -- the top-ranked university in the Arab world -- will seek to expand upon their productive relationship in dentistry and explore collaborative activities in other areas of teaching and research.
While in Riyadh, McRobbie met with several prominent IU Saudi alums in government and business. They included Benton Medallion recipient Baroum, who serves as chair of the Madinah Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship, an organization at the forefront of executive education in the Middle East. He is also chair of the Al Khomasiah Group, a commercial development organization that works to transfer knowledge and develop expertise in Saudi Arabia.
“Sami Baroum’s professional accomplishments have brought great distinction to Indiana University,” McRobbie said. “We are extremely pleased to award him with one of IU’s highest honors, in recognition of his distinguished career as a business executive and entrepreneur.”
McRobbie also met with Bandar Al-Hajjar, the Minister of Hajj, responsible for the provision of facilities for the annual visit of 2.5 million pilgrims to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, one of the largest mass movements of human beings in the world. Al-Hajjar, who earned a master’s degree from IU in economics in 1981, was appointed Minister of Hajj in 2011, becoming the first IU graduate to hold such a high position in the king of Saudi Arabia’s cabinet.
McRobbie also met with representatives of the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education, which oversees the nation’s 28 public universities, as well as with the leadership and staff of the National Center of Assessment in Higher Education, a self-funded government institution that has been measuring the quality, efficiency and equity of Saudi Arabia’s higher education system since 2001.
McRobbie concluded his trip to Saudi Arabia by attending a special reception in downtown Riyadh hosted by 70 IU Saudi alums.
IU first lady Laurie Burns McRobbie, who had a separate itinerary from President McRobbie, paid an official visit to Princess Nora University, a public women’s university in the Saudi capital and the largest university for women in the world, to explore opportunities for collaboration with IU. She also met with distinguished Saudi IU alumnae and other women in senior positions in Saudi Arabia, including members of the Shura Council that advises the Saudi king, at two dinners held in her honor.
In addition she met with Lubna Olayan, who received her master’s degree from the IU Kelley School of Business in 1979. She is now CEO of the Olayan Financing Co., which is the Middle East arm of The Olayan Group, one of the region's leading commercial and investment operations.
India and IU India Office
With music and other fanfare, Indiana University dedicated its IU India Office during a ceremony Oct. 30 that marked the latest chapter in IU's lengthy history of engagement in India.
Raj Kumar, vice chancellor at O.P. Jindal Global University, and the Honorable Deepender Hooda, a member of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s parliament, and an alumnus of the IU Kelley School of Business, joined IU President McRobbie at the ceremony. Michael Pelletier, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, was a special guest at the ceremony.
Acclaimed Indian classical musician and sarod virtuoso Ayaan Ali Khan concluded the dedication ceremony with a moving musical performance.
"The IU India Office, first and foremost, is symbolic of Indiana University's desire to work in a spirit of mutually beneficial cooperation with Indian universities, business and other institutions, as well as India's social and cultural leaders," McRobbie said. "IU's presence in India is indicative of our desire to learn about India on its own terms and to begin an exchange that will benefit both India and Indiana and strengthen the connections between India and the United States."
“It is clear this office will serve as a thriving hub for American students, researchers and faculty members to partner with the brightest minds in India," Pelletier said. "President Obama and Prime Minister Modi agreed during their recent summit in Washington, D.C., to provide new opportunities for advancing U.S.-India relations, specifically in the area of academic exchange. Indiana University’s India Office can play an important role in this effort and put into action the U.S.-India vision statement of 'Chalein Saath Saath: Forward, Together We Go.'”
Earlier this year, IU dedicated a second gateway office in Beijing, and it is exploring the possibility of opening similar facilities in the Middle East, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia.
"IU’s gateway office in India will make resources available to our faculty and students and also to these colleagues and friends abroad," said David Zaret, IU vice president for international affairs. "The gateways will ensure that the connections that the IU delegation develops will remain active and productive."
Before the ceremony, IU hosted a daylong symposium at the IU India Office on “Safeguarding India’s Documentary and Cultural Heritage.” Led by Ron Sela, IU associate professor of Central Eurasian studies and international studies at IU Bloomington, participants from several Indian universities and institutions identified key challenges that scholars and researchers face in the use and preservation of manuscript sources, as well as the physical remains of India’s cultural history.
“This activity reflects the spirit of mutually beneficial cooperation that we hope the new IU India Office will foster,” McRobbie said.
Located in the city of Gurgaon near the Indian capital New Delhi, the IU India Office is a 3,700-square-foot suite within the headquarters of the American Institute of Indian Studies, an NGO run by a consortium of U.S. colleges and universities, including IU.
The facility, which opened in cooperation with the institute, enables IU to accelerate its academic partnerships throughout India. It also supports a wide variety of activities, including scholarly research and teaching, conferences and workshops, study abroad programs, distance learning initiatives, student recruitment activities, executive and corporate programs, and alumni engagement events.
In addition to O.P. Jindal Global University, IU has relationships with the University of Hyderabad, Symbiosis International University, Indian Institute of Management Lucknow, Elite School of Optometry and SHODH: Institute for Research and Development.
In recent years, IU has engaged in exchanges and collaborations in optometry and ophthalmology with leading Indian eye care institutions.
Late last month, it was announced that the IU School of Optometry received one of eight Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative awards, which are aimed at strengthening collaboration and building partnerships between American and Indian institutions of higher education. The three-year grant will support collaborative research on the prevention of corneal blindness. The research will be led by S.P. Srinivas, an associate professor at the School of Optometry, working with colleagues at the Vision Research Foundation, the research wing of Sankara Nethralaya, a leading specialty eye hospital based in Chennai, India.
IU Bloomington also is home to the Madhusudan and Kiran C. Dhar India Studies Program, one of only a handful of such programs in the United States. Its faculty members are engaged in research and teaching about India's history and culture, including contemporary politics, law, literature and business. It is within the IU School of Global and International Studies.