GPS to India: FIU delegation returns with win-win partnerships

FIU’s partnerships stretch out over the entire globe – but there are some countries with which collaborations are multi-dimensionally broad and exceedingly successful. India is one of those countries. As such, a 10-member FIU delegation headed to India between Aug. 27-31 for a strategic outreach initiative called Global Position Showcase (GPS) to India.

The purpose of this multi-city visit was to engage current partners with whom the university has enjoyed successful relationships, and build upon them to expand FIU’s impact and footprint. As the chief coordinator of this initiative, I am pleased to share this article to offer a glimpse into the delegation’s interactions with officials and members of academic institutions, high schools and federal and international agencies throughout New Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Manipal.

As is customary in India, traditional hospitality is formal yet warm and colorful (and yes, often quite spicy!). Printed banners and electronic message boards regularly announced the FIU delegation’s presence. In addition to bright and shiny saris worn by our Indian hosts, flower bouquets frequently were part of the welcoming, as was the case upon our arrival in Bangalore.

From left to right: Prof. Ranu Jung, host, Prof. Dee Mills, Provost Ken Furton, Vice Provost Meredith Newman, host, Ms. Gitta Montoto, Prof. Ram Iyengar in Bangalore

But let’s go in chronological order:

Prof. P. B. Sharma, Vice Chancellor, Amity University Gurgaon and Provost & Executive Vice President Kenneth G. Furton

Day 1
The delegation’s first formal stop was at Amity University, Gurgaon campus, in Delhi. This institution is part of the 2003 established private, not-for-profit Amity Group, home to 150,000 students across campuses in India as well as overseas in London, New Jersey, California, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Mauritius, South Africa, Singapore, China and Romania. Quite ambitious, Amity is the only not-for-profit Asian university that has earned U.S. regional accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

In a formal signing ceremony, Vice Chancellor P. B. Sharma and Provost and Executive Vice President Kenneth G. Furton affirmed a commitment for both institutions to partner in academic exchanges, joint research supervision and theses, and the development of academic programs. At the Amity Group level, administrators proposed for FIU to establish a physical presence at Amity University, Noida, the group’s headquarters, and those talks are ongoing.

FIU delegation with officials at the headquarters of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research

In the afternoon, while our two College of Business leaders Dean Joanne Li and Associate Dean Sumit Kundu visited Shiv Nadar University, the rest of the group huddled with the chief scientist and head director of General Technical Cell (CGTC) & International Science & Technology Affairs Division, A. Chakraborty, at the Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), the “NSF” of India. Our chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, Ranu Jung, initiated this visit. Her department already benefitted from a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with CSIR. She hosted Sanjeev Kumar, scientist in the Biomedical Instrumentation Unit, CSIR-CSIO at FIU’s Adaptive Neural Systems Lab as a Raman Research Fellow for enhanced mentored research in Haptics for Robotic Surgical Applications in 2017.

Kumar joined us for the meetings in Delhi, and we were pleased that officials expressed an interest to fund up to 10 FIU students who wish to conduct research in CSIR laboratories in the coming years. A truly exciting offer!

In the evening, a special treat: FIU Business alumnus Marcel Vadera and his family hosted a cocktail reception and dinner at his five-star The Anya Hotel in Gurgaon. How lucky were we? Pretty lucky! Mostly because the company could not have been better. Just ask Li how proud she was of Vadera, a business alumnus; or Jung, whose former Ph.D. student Romila Machanda, now an assistant professor herself, caught up with her on the latest developments in biomedical engineering research at FIU.

From left to right: Dean Li, alumnus Marcel Vadera, Provost Furton; Prof. Jung (facing away) and alumna Romila Machanda; Prof. Kundu (facing away) and Fulbrighters Manjari Pushkarma and Amit Ranjan

And Fulbrighters Manjari Pushkarma and Amit Ranjan, who served in the Department of Modern Languages as Foreign Language Teaching Assistants for Hindi in 2016-17 and 2015-16, respectively, also came to greet their FIU colleagues. Adding to that the wonderful hospitality of the Vadera family and the authentic Indian cuisine, it was an unforgettable FIU Panther evening.

Day 2
Still in Delhi, the delegation split up multiple ways to make the most of the trip. The College of Business leaders Li and Kundu met with officials at Ansal University, Gurgaon, and Ashoka University, Haryana, to discuss articulation agreements and pathways toward a graduate FIU degree.

Meanwhile, Jung, DeEtta Mills, professor and director of the International Forensic Research Institute (IFRI), and S.S. “Ram” Iyengar, professor and director of the School of Computing & Information Sciences (SCIS) visited with officials at the Indo-US Science & Technology Forum (IUSSTF), which facilitates the development of sustained linkages between academia, laboratories and industry.

From left to right: Director Gitta Montoto, Prof.  Jung, Profs. Harpal Singh and Veena Koul from IIT Delhi

Energized by IUSSTF’s commitment to bridge collaborators’ needs toward successful joint projects, the group went on to the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IITD) to discuss with scientists and administrators our capacities, particularly in biomedical engineering, and opportunities for research collaboration and joint Ph.D. degrees. The chair of the IITD Centre for Biomedical Engineering, Professor Harpal Singh, visited FIU some time ago and is familiar with the caliber of our faculty’s and students’ work.

In the afternoon followed a visit with officials at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) Delhi headquarters. FICCI’s work in the higher education sector provides a platform for knowledge sharing and networking between Indian policy makers, industry and the international education community. There was substantial interest by FICCI in the work of our faculty experts in forensic education and training, cyber security and smart energy grids, but also the joint development of a much needed regulatory science education program.

Yet the most prominent role on the second day was assumed by Furton, who served as a feature speaker at the IC3 Conference Presidential Forum. The International Career and College Counselling Conference (IC3) brings together university and high school representatives from India and abroad to share best practices in advising students on making savvy college and career path choices.

Provost Furton presenting at the IC3 Presidential Forum

The IC3 conference, with some 500 representatives from Indian high schools and colleges in attendance, provided Furton, Vice Provost for Faculty & Global Affairs Meredith Newman and Director for International Admissions Sarah Noppen with the optimal opportunity to talk up FIU’s top programs and the idea for International Dual Enrollment for high school students abroad. The conference program concluded with a visit to the Delhi Microsoft offices and a formal reception for American conference participants at the U.S. Embassy, hosted by Public Affairs officer Jeffrey Sexton.

Day 3
Would you expect that Indian students can complete their associates degree from Broward College (BC) in Mumbai? You bet! Broward College International Center in Mumbai, one of many BC International Centers across the world, hosted Newman and manager of International Admissions Laura Pacchioni to meet local students.

Second row from the left: Vice Provost Meredith Newman. Second row from the right: Manager of International Admissions Laura Pacchioni, with students, teachers and administrators at Garodia International Center for Learning, Mumbai

Eager to learn about the unique opportunity to transfer from BC International Center Mumbai to FIU upon completion of an associates degree, it was standing-room only for students, teachers and administrators interested in our university. Also in attendance at the showcase were school administrators and high-school students from Garodia International Center for Learning Mumbai, where the BC International Center is located. All were eager to gain insights into our degree programs and admission requirements for international students.

In Ahmedabad, meanwhile, other delegation members were welcomed at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabadt (IIMA). IIMA is recognized as the premier management school of India and FIU’s College of Business is already an official partner as both schools enjoy the membership in a world-wide Executive MBA Consortium of elite business schools.

FIU delegation with IIM Ahmedabad hosts

FIU and IIM Ahmedabad faculty discuss common research interests

In addition, Iyengar recently received a grant proposal titled “Development of a Prosumer-Driven Integrated Smart Grid” in partnership with IIMA and other academic and industry partners as part of the Indian Department of Science & Technology’s Smart Grids Innovation Challenge. Upon completion of the formal meet and greet with campus officials, the delegation went straight to business: Amit Garg, professor of Public Systems Group, IIMA, and the PI on the aforementioned grant, and Iyengar had carefully planned working sessions with faculty and other experts from within the State of Gujarat to explore future collaborative ventures. IIMA faculty, for example, expressed a keen interest in business and social aspects of introducing health care services and products to the Indian market, such as the patented and FDA neural-enabled prosthetic hand developed by Jung. Other discussions, much welcomed by IFRI-affiliated faculty Mills and Furton, focused on the need for forensics public policy changes as well as educational programs spanning a spectrum from certificates to joint oversight of Ph.D. students.

Day 4

FIU delegates meet with NIAS administration members  and faculty

Bangalore-day! In Bangalore we were honored to welcome more than 300 guests to our signature event, the FIU & Partners Cyber Security & Forensic Analysis Summit, on the picturesque campus of the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) . NIAS happens to be Iyengar’s alma mater (no coincidence, obviously!), which means for him it was also a trip down memory lane. Upon Iyengar’s initiative, multiple existing partner institutions had accepted our invitation and were represented by high-level administrative representatives, faculty and bus-loads of students.

A side conversation among forensic/cyber security experts Gandhi Kaza, CEO of Truth Labs and FIU, DeEtta Mills and Ram Iyengar

The agenda was focused on connecting the dots: highlighting our past successes with our partners, particularly in cyber security, and introducing a new and related area, forensic science. While most guests represented regional universities, it also was an opportunity to meet with Gandhi Kaza, government advisor for the states of Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. Besides his government advising role, Kaza is chairman of Truth Labs as well as executive director of the Genome Foundation, and he recognizes FIU’s strengths in forensic research and skill training, an area where the state governments he represents are planning to invest heavily.

Much interest by Indian students to learn about our admissions standards

A Fulbright India Program representative’s overview of fellowships and scholarships to fund a future visit to FIU or elsewhere was of much interest. And then there was Hector Peguero, our own Fulbright fellow, who currently conducts his research in Mysore on a Fulbright research grant. Peguero represented our students and gave Indian students and faculty his own account of what makes FIU a great place to study.

Also on the master calendar for the day, the College of Business leadership team’s visit to a current MOU partner, the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB). Discussions there resulted in the planning of a joint conference and the set up of a research triangle with University of International Business and Economics in China. Iyengar, Noppen and Peguero, meanwhile, made a quick stop at National High School to discuss pathways for students to come to FIU.

In the afternoon, it was onward to nearby Bangalore University (BU). Under grand fanfare Furton, Newman, Iyengar and Noppen were seated with university officials on the university auditorium stage in front of 900 students and faculty to sign a formal MOU to explore further collaborations between our institutions. BU’s students indicated great interest in coming to FIU as well as pursuing our online STEM degrees.

MOU signing with representatives from B.M.S. College of Engineering

A formal reception and dinner with all members of the FIU delegation and nearly 100 representatives from partner institutions concluded the day with a celebratory gathering among friends. Several institutions signed MOUs to affirm their intent to further pursue educational opportunities with FIU, including B.M.S. College of Engineering, Bangalore.

It was also a perfect opportunity to express our sincere appreciation and commitment to our Indian counterparts, who were most generous in hosting and welcoming us. Namaste!


Day 5
Although a bit worn out from the events of the first four days, the group was excited to make the trip from Bangalore to Mangalore on a Spice Jet prop plane, followed by a two-hour northbound car ride to Manipal, which is located roughly 400 km from Bangalore on the Indian west coast. Why Manipal? A “campus town” with a population of less than 35,000, it is home to Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE). MAHE is a top university in India, particularly renowned for its Kasturba Medical College. Some 720 students from this college have completed medical rotations for clinical experiences in Miami as part of the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine’s International Visiting Medical Student Program. Building on this active partnership, the delegation members engaged with their counterparts from the School of Management, the Manipal Institute of Technology, Forensics and the Health and Life Sciences, with whom common research interests were quickly established.

FIU delegation with the dean and faculty of Manipal Institute of Technology

Two MOUs were formally signed, one institution-wide and another specifically between the business schools. Another area of collaboration that was initiated is a 2+2 articulation agreement for an agreed-upon plan of study that involves taking coursework at MAHE and FIU, which is already under review by both institutions.

Post-trip Work
Back at home, the delegation members reflected on the GPS initiative and found it a worthwhile investment of time and effort. Not only was it proof of our collective institutional pride and ambition, it underscored FIU’s forward-thinking and far-reaching aspirations to build upon collaborations that  already have been successful. The response of Indian partners was also quite reassuring. A grant proposal was submitted within a week after the discussions at the CSIR to the CSIR. Faculty workshops to flesh out partner responsibilities and engage research group members are being scheduled. Counter-visits to advance plans for dual-degree programs and international dual enrollment with high schools are in the works.

Several Indian faculty from partner institutions are expected to attend the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) Conference and Expo hosted by FIU in Miami Nov.6-7, 2018. And while on-campus follow-up efforts with India are rapidly proceeding, a formal GPS initiative de-briefing with the local chapter of the India-US Chamber of Commerce, Inc. is to take place in the near future. It will continue our engagement with the South Florida Indian diaspora and business community to do its part in supporting our efforts in broadening and deepening relations between Florida and India.

For a complete photo album of photos from the delegation’s India trip taken by Tim Long, multimedia manager in External Relations, visit the GPS India 2018 flickr album.

FIU delegation members’ weekend visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra