Cornell Gets Big Gift to Recruit From and Do Research With India

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Fri Oct 17 14:23:52 UTC 2008

Cornell Gets $50-Million Gift for International Research and Recruitment


Cornell Gets Big Gift to Recruit From and Do Research With India

Ratan Tata, an Indian industrialist and Cornell University alumnus,
announced today a gift of $50-million to his alma mater to help
recruit top Indian students to the campus and to support joint
research projects with Indian universities in agriculture and
The gift from the Tata Trusts, a group of philanthropic organizations
run by Mr. Tata, chairman of the business conglomerate Tata Sons Ltd.,
will allow Cornell to establish and expand partnerships with Indian
scientists that build on its strength in applied agriculture research.
He graduated from Cornell in 1959.

The donation will also be used to set up a scholarship fund to bring
more Indian students, who may be discouraged by Cornell's price tag,
to the university. The gift could eventually help support as many as
25 Indian undergraduate and graduate students at a time.

"We want to have our doors wide open and accessible to the best
students, regardless of their capacity to pay," said David J. Skorton,
Cornell's president.

Global-Minded Gifts

The Tata gift is the largest and the latest in a line of
multimillion-dollar pledges directed to the international programs of
American colleges. This year alone, Duke University and Macalester
College received gifts of $20-million and $13.5-million, respectively,
to support need-based financial aid for international undergraduates.

In August, Spelman College announced that an anonymous donor had
pledged $17-million to help recruit foreign students, to provide
scholarships to low- and middle-income students studying abroad, and
to help students and faculty members at the historically black women's
college conduct research overseas.

The uptick in donor support for international activities reflects the
mounting importance assigned by both higher-education and business
leaders to preparing graduates to work in an increasingly global
marketplace, development officers and international educators say.

As a result, a growing number of colleges, both private and public,
are assigning staff members to raise money specifically for
international projects, like overseas study, joint research, and the
recruitment of foreign students. And they are courting overseas
alumni, like Mr. Tata.

"More universities realize that if internationalization is an
institutional priority, then it should be funded as one," Chunsheng
Zhang, special assistant to the president and provost for
international affairs at the University of Oregon, wrote in an e-mail
message from Beijing.

He notes that Oregon recently received two gifts, of $1-million and
$1.6-million, to establish an international recruitment fund and to
support study and internships abroad.

Mr. Zhang and Stephen D. Dunnett, vice provost for international
education at the State University of New York at Buffalo, have
surveyed colleges about trends in giving to international programs.

'Shoulder to Shoulder'

The Tata gift grew out of a trip that Dr. Skorton and other Cornell
administrators took to India in January 2007 (The Chronicle, March 2,
2007). The visit, he said, helped make clear the need to improve
academic and research linkages between American and Indian

Dr. Skorton, who calls Cornell the "land-grant university to the
world," says the Tata funds will expand on its previous work to
improve the productivity, sustainability, and profitability of India's
food system. Faculty members in Cornell's College of Agriculture and
Life Sciences have conducted research experiments and exchanged
scientific information with their Indian counterparts for more than 50

The precise type and scope of the efforts, however, will be decided by
an advisory panel to be chaired by Dr. Skorton and Mr. Tata. They will
work "shoulder to shoulder," Dr. Skorton said, to ensure that the
projects reflect both Indian and American needs.

For his part, Mr. Tata, who also received an architecture degree from
Cornell in 1962, says he did not want his donation to finance "bricks
and mortar."

"I didn't want my name on a building," he said.

Mr. Tata says he recognizes the "enormous value" of his university
education and wanted other Indian students to have a similar
experience, regardless of their socioeconomic background.

The gift greatly expands Cornell's capacity to offer financial aid to
international students. The endowment for international financial aid
is about $1.5-million a year, said Doris Davis, associate provost for
admissions and enrollment.

The Tata scholarships will be offered to six to 10 students annually,
depending on level of need. Although the goal is to award the grants
mainly to undergraduates, some may initially go for graduate-student

About 3,000 of Cornell's 20,000 students are from outside the United States.

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