The University of Illinois Board of Trustees on Thursday voted to establish a U of I System liaison office in New Delhi, India, and a branch office in Bengaluru (Bangalore) to further develop relationships with academic and corporate partners and alumni in the country and to support student recruitment.
Board members also approved a measure to appoint University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) alumnus Vivek Damle as the board’s authorized representative in India. The position is a requirement of the system’s planned application to the Reserve Bank of India to open the liaison office.
India is already one of the top countries of origin of international students for the three U of I System universities, and is also home to more than 2,200 alumni as well as a number of academic and other partners.
The new liaison office should help drive growth in all of those areas, U of I System President Tim Killeen said.
“India has one of the world’s largest economies and it has grown rapidly, presenting an excellent opportunity for the U of I System to nurture our existing partnerships and develop new ones, all with an eye toward continued excellence and creating opportunities for students,” he said. “Our international strategy is based on promoting opportunity, diversity and educational and research programs with global impact.”
Killeen noted that global impact is a goal of the Strategic Framework approved in 2016 by trustees to guide the U of I System’s future.
That goal, combined with India’s global economic importance, drove the decision to develop a new presence there now, said Pradeep Khanna, associate vice chancellor for corporate relations and economic development at UIUC.
“We have longstanding higher education partnerships in India. The rapid expansion of the higher education sector in India and globalization of its economy are creating new opportunities for engagement for our university there,” Khanna said. “This office will work to increase our engagements with higher education institutions in India as well as to connect with the growing number of our successful alumni there.”
India had the world’s sixth-largest economy in 2020, according to the most recent available figures from the World Bank, with a gross domestic product of $2.623 trillion. The Indian economy has grown almost 40 percent since 2010.
In the fall of 2020, 2,848 students from India were enrolled in U of I System universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield, more than any foreign nation aside from China.
The U of I System has deep ties to India in other areas, as well. In 2018, during a visit led by Killeen, the system signed agreements for new academic and research partnerships with seven of India’s top universities and research agencies. They include the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore; the Birla Institute of Technology & Science in Pilani; the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi; Gokula Education Foundation, a charitable trust that operates the MS Ramaiah Medical College and the MSR University of Applied Sciences; Kerala Startup Mission, a government agency that promotes business incubator and entrepreneurship programs; the Information and Communication Technology Academy of Kerala; and the Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management in Kerala.
MS Ramaiah Medical College also is part of a partnership with the system’s Discovery Partners Institute.
The system plans to submit its application to the Reserve Bank of India within a couple of months, Khanna said, and its evaluation could take several months. If the application is approved, by law the liaison office will have to be open in six months. Reserve Bank approval of the office is required by Indian law.
Damle, the new authorized representative for the system in India, earned a PhD in 2000 from Urbana-Champaign in management of biotechnology and agribusiness and for seven years was international director of the Alumni Board for UIUC's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. He is chairman, managing director and vice president of corporate development for SkillNet Solutions India.
Trustees on Thursday also approved the appointment of ICICI Bank as its banker in India to handle all financial transactions related to the operation of the liaison office.
In other business Thursday, trustees appointed Javier A. Reyes as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), effective Aug. 16. Reyes is currently the Milan Puskar Dean, professor of economics and vice president of Start-Up West Virginia at West Virginia University. He has a PhD from Texas A&M University and a bachelor’s degree from the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Campus Estado de México.
Reyes succeeds Susan Poser, who has been appointed president of Hofstra University, effective Aug. 1. Karen J. Colley, the dean of the Graduate College and a professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics in the College of Medicine, has been serving as provost and vice chancellor on an acting basis since May 24.
Trustees also appointed Chandra Harris-McCray as vice chancellor for strategic marketing and communications at UIC, effective Aug. 9. Harris-McCray is currently the founding executive director of advancement marketing and communications at the University of Colorado Boulder. She has a PhD and a master’s degree from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; and a bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University.
Harris-McCray succeeds Sherri McGinnis Gonzalez, who has served as interim vice chancellor for strategic marketing and communications since Dec. 16, 2021. McGinnis Gonzalez will continue her role as senior executive director of Public Affairs.