July 21, 2005

Cornell president joins Indian prime minister to open new chapter in science education

ITHACA, N.Y. -- India, which has cornered the world economy's virtual backroom, now will bring leading American science, engineering and computing faculty from Cornell University and other top colleges to teach students at Amrita University and other institutions, thanks to EduSat and emerging distance-learning strategies.

Cornell University President Hunter R. Rawlings III signed a three-year agreement with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on July 20 in Washington, D.C., that will bring visiting faculty and disseminate their lectures via EduSat. "This is a tremendous opportunity for Cornell University faculty to gain wide exposure in India's higher education system, and for Cornell to enhance its ties with India at the highest level," Rawlings said. 

Carnegie Mellon University, the University at Buffalo, the University of California, UC Berkeley and UC San Diego are partners in the consortium. Qualcomm Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Cadence Design Systems are funding this program. 

Kent Fuchs, dean of Cornell's College of Engineering, said: "Cornell enjoys long and meaningful relationships with Qualcomm and Microsoft; this program provides an opportunity to extend that relationship to collaborate with our peers at top institutes in India."

Cornell has a very strong Indian student presence on campus, with 333 Indian nationals, the fourth-largest international presence on campus.

Cornell maintains eight existing agreements with Indian institutions, mostly in agriculture, according to David Wippman, Cornell vice provost for international affairs. This engineering-oriented agreement expands the university's relationship with India. "It exposes our top faculty to India's vast student body and opens the doors for other projects," he said.

Qualcomm and Microsoft have had long histories with Cornell. Irwin Jacobs, the recently retired founder and CEO of Qualcomm, earned his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Cornell in 1954. Qualcomm has recently expanded its engineering and business operations in India.

In 2004 Bill Gates, president of Microsoft, visited the Cornell campus. He spoke of the future and the importance of free trade and the global economy. "In the 1980s, it was fascinating. There was all this angst about Japan, and Japan taking over various industries. And some of the humility and thinking that came out of that actually led to the great work that we saw the benefit of in the '90s," he said at a campus lecture. "So I'm hopeful as we look at the fact that the Internet, software and hardware are enabling global activity, we'll go back to basics and say, 'No, we don't want to close the door, but we want to make sure that we're leading the way and that we've got our own unique contribution to that picture.'"

Cornell has other important ties to Microsoft. With Microsoft support, the Cornell Theory Center has pioneered the use of multiple processors running the Windows operating system in parallel to form a supercomputer. Microsoft funds a variety of smaller research programs, including work in robotics and human-computer interaction. Fred Schneider, Cornell professor of computer science, is chair of a panel of experts advising Microsoft on ways to improve the security of its products. And 50 undergraduates at Cornell are supported by Microsoft Millennium Scholarships, a program aimed at inner-city youth.