Virginia Commonwealth University recently launched a $1 million campaign to support a new India Chair in Democracy and Civil Society, the first of its kind in the United States, to be housed in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.
“Many other chairs in India studies focus on ancient history or economic growth in India,” Niraj Verma, director of the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, stated in a press release. “But we’re taking a different approach which focuses on democracy in India,” the Indian American urban planning and management expert said.
The India Chair will lead the discussion about democracy by bringing experts on Indian art, culture, history, politics, economics, business relations and related areas to the campus and the surrounding community.
Holders of the chair will visit VCU for short-term visits or longer stays of up to a year. The chair will host an array of speakers and events.
A “Friends of the India Chair at VCU” campaign, chaired by Ranjit K. Sen, has been formed to help launch the effort.
In a letter to potential donors, Sen wrote, “Our goal is to raise $1 million in endowment to create a lasting legacy with the only chair in the United States dedicated to the study of Indian democracy and civil society.”
The India Chair will be promoted during the Festival of India, which will take place Oct. 8 and 9 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.
The cultural fair, which regularly attracts around 20,000 people, will feature a booth celebrating the announcement of the school’s initiative as well as a free raffle for a basketball signed by the VCU Final Four Team.
Speaking at the chair’s inaugural dinner April 2, Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Nirupama Rao emphasized that democracy, freedom from fear, respect for civil liberties and the rule of law provide essential foundations to the great edifice of the India–U.S. Strategic Partnership.
The ambassador agreed with Gov. Robert McDonnell, who also attended the dinner, in stressing the need to constantly nurture the bonds of friendship, including through building partnerships especially in the field of education, and between research institutions of the two countries.
VCU president Michael Rao said the India Chair provides an exciting opportunity for VCU, Richmond and Virginia.
“The chair will position us as leading partners with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and offer opportunities for economic and cultural development,” said president Rao. “In addition, the chair will provide our students — the next generation of leaders—with a broader picture of India.”
In a separate meeting, Rao and McDonnell agreed to take concrete follow-up measures to forge greater trade and investment ties between India and the state of Virginia.
The ambassador also addressed an International Business Summit at the VCU on the theme “The Rise of India in the Global Business Arena.”