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Grant funds partnership between International Programs and Indian ag institutions

Continuing the long partnership between Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and agricultural universities in India, Cornell's International Programs (IP-CALS) has been awarded a $250,000 grant over three years to support faculty exchanges and strengthen curriculum development efforts at partner institutions in the less developed states of Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.

The grant will fund new courses, experiential learning and the use of information technology.

The partner institutions in India are the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad (UASD) and Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel University of Agriculture and Technology (SVPUA&T), Meerut. Sathguru Management Consultants, India's leading private sector firm in the area of life sciences, will assist in program monitoring, funding management and faculty exchange.

The grant is funded by the U.S.-India Educational Foundation under the auspices of the Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative.

Six Cornell faculty, one each from the areas of seed science, nanotechnology, experiential learning, e-learning and information technology, food science and gender studies will visit the two Indian universities for two weeks, between February 2013 and December 2014. The 14 Indian participants will visit Cornell for four weeks, between May 2012 and December 2014. While the Cornell faculty will bring their expertise to India, the knowledge transfer will be reciprocated when the Cornell professors return with case studies to present to their students.

"A Cornell professor will be able to tell students about adapting nanotechnology applications in agriculture in India, for example, which is a valuable lesson in international development about adjusting to local conditions," said Kandukuri Venkat Raman, the project's director, professor of plant breeding and genetics and associate director of IP-CALS.

Preference will be given to women and junior faculty members from India and women and minority candidates admitted to the newly proposed courses offered at the two state agricultural universities.

The Indian faculty visiting Cornell will benefit from targeted curriculum work and immerse themselves in other Cornell resources.

At UASD, the focus will be on revamping graduate programs in seed science and creating a gender studies program. The objectives at SVPUA&T include creating an e-learning center to strengthen teaching and course delivery and establishing a Centre of Excellence of Teaching that will upgrade faculty knowledge and teaching skills and strengthen the Extension Education program to better serve farmers.

The new and revamped classes will become part of the agricultural universities' official curriculum. "Curriculum reform is not easy," said Raman. "These partnerships are vital first steps to establishing new and improved courses in agriculture and food security."

In the third year of the project, faculty and senior-level administrators of UASD, SVPUA&T and Cornell will share lessons learned and compile best practices for curriculum reform at a workshop. These outputs will serve as a model for subsequent curriculum revamping in other universities in India.

The Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative aims to strengthen collaboration and build partnerships between American and Indian institutions. Cornell was the only university awarded a grant in the field of agricultural sciences and food security.

John Bakum is a communications specialist with International Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.


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