Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Pens, Papers and Passports: A Growing Number of Students from U.S. Colleges Want to Hitch a Ride to the High-Speed Indian Economy

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Pens, Papers and Passports: A Growing Number of Students from U.S. Colleges Want to Hitch a Ride to the High-Speed Indian Economy

Article excerpt

It wasn't long after Lauren Skryzowski entered Yale University's School of Management that she realized something was missing. While business schools at other institutions offered unique programs with corporations in emerging economic powers, Yale was lacking. The university did have a partnership agreement with China, but there was no such opportunity to learn from and form connections with the burgeoning businesses of India, the second most populous nation on the planet. Skryzowski had a brainstorm after some classmates suggested a spring break trip to the country. She posed a simple question to her administrators in the school--"Why not have a business study trip?"

It didn't take much convincing for them to see her point, and in February the university sent 20 students, Skryzowski included, to New Delhi, Bombay and Bangalore to meet some of the country's top business and political leaders. The six-week course, "Emerging Market Study Trip, Destination India," was meant to expose the students to business practices in a country that many experts believe could be the world's next superpower.

In 2005, Yale President Richard C. Levin traveled to India specifically to improve ties with educational, political and business leaders in the country. As the American and Indian economies become more interdependent, such cooperative programs can be very valuable for both sides. So when Yale began contacting Indian officials, they found them eager to listen.

"We sent out some cold e-mails, including to the Indian prime minister," says Skryzowski. "It blew my mind how responsive they were."

India has seen its economic fortunes take off in recent years. Last year, its gross domestic product rose 8 percent over 2004 in response to an expanded manufacturing sector. The country's large English-speaking population is leading India's transition into a world leader in the software services industry. And American universities have taken notice, especially of the movement on the technology front.

American students aren't new to India. It has long been a popular destination for nonprofit work and students of public policy, but now American business schools are realizing the opportunities available in Southeast Asia. As international experience becomes an increasingly vital component of business success, more schools are telling their students to come to class with pen, paper and a passport. And it's not just a one-way street. American students are learning first-hand about one of the world's fastest growing business powers, and in doing so are becoming attractive potential employees for those same corporations.

According to Skryzowski, by the end of the February trip, 75 percent of the students said they would consider working in India. Although she recently accepted an offer from IBM, Skryzowski says she still hopes to work in India one day.

Dr. Jonathan Koppell, a Yale associate professor of politics and management who accompanied the students to India, says business is never purely about dollars and cents.

"It has a lot to do with what's good and bad with regulations, infrastructure and strategy," he says. "We were impressed with the executives who were not only thinking about this, but [thinking about] their competitors around the globe. Seeing that in practice was very enlightening."

Yale isn't the only American institution to see the value of forming ties with Indian corporations. Stanford University, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology already have initiatives in place to provide their students with internship and employment opportunities at Indian firms.

The Stanford Asia Technology Initiative, open to everyone from freshmen to doctoral candidates, offers exposure to different regional technology hubs around Asia. The summer fellowship program has been up and running since 2002 and culminates in a global entrepreneurship conference, held in Shanghai, China or Bombay. …

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