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International development expert named Rhodes professor

Ramaswami Balasubramaniam


International development expert Ramaswami Balasubramaniam has been named a Frank H.T. Rhodes Class of '56 Professor at Cornell. His three-year term began in July, and he will be in residence Sept. 23-30.

Balasubramaniam is a physician, public health advocate and nonprofit leader based in Mysore, India. He is founder of India's leading nonprofit development organization, the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM), that was launched nearly 28 years ago when he was a 19-year-old medical student. SVYM develops local, innovative and cost-effective programs addressing health, education and community development issues from civic empowerment to microfinance, soil conservation and nonprofit management.

Balasubramaniam has been affiliated with Cornell since 2008, said his academic sponsor, Joe Grasso, the ILR School's associate dean for finance, administration and corporate relations.

"He is an excellent choice for this professorship because of the breadth of his experience and accomplishment, his role as an emerging national leader in India and his engaging style of interacting with faculty and students," Grasso said.

Balasubramaniam, who goes by "Balu," has guest lectured in Grasso's course on nonprofit finance and management, in other ILR courses, at the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs (CIPA), the Department of Policy Analysis and Management, the Global Health Program, and the Samuel C. Johnson Graduate School of Management, among others. Through the ILR School's global service learning program, ILR students spend two weeks at SVYM learning about Indian politics, economics, culture and public health issues and four weeks working with SVYM or other nonprofits in Mysore. CIPA students have consulted with SVYM during their capstone course. And several ILR professors have served as fellows with SVYM's policy research and advocacy institute.

His appointed positions within India's government include seats on the National Planning Commission, the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the National Rural Livelihood Mission; he consults with the World Bank. A special investigator of the Lok Ayukta anti-corruption agency, he investigates government corruption in the Indian state of Karnataka.

Balasubramaniam has a medical degree from Mysore College of Medicine and a Master of Philosophy degree in hospital and health systems management from the Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences. He also has a Master in Public Administration degree from Harvard University, where he has been a Mason fellow in public policy and management and a midcareer fellow at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations.

Rhodes professors are appointed for three years with the possibility of a renewal for two additional years and are considered full members of the Cornell faculty. The purpose of the professorship is to strengthen the undergraduate experience by bringing to campus individuals from every walk of life who represent excellence of achievement, and to create opportunities for interaction with undergraduates. During each year of their appointment, Rhodes professors visit campus and are typically in residence for a week.

Previous Rhodes professors include architect Peter Eisenman '54, B.Arch. '55; civil rights activist Robert Parris Moses; hospitality venture capitalist Leland Pillsbury '69; and Spencer Wells, explorer-in-residence and director of The Genographic Project at the National Geographic Society.

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Joe Schwartz