University of Houston Initiates Tamil Studies Program in Partnership with ICCR

Tamil Studies classes have commenced at the University of Houston, marking a significant step forward in the institution’s collaboration with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). This academic endeavor stems from the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) inked between ICCR and the University of Houston (UoH) in June 2023. These inaugural classes are under the tutelage of Dr. Vijayalakshmi, a distinguished visiting professor of Indian Studies.

The inauguration of this educational endeavor was attended by Manjunath Chenneerapa, the Consul General of India in Houston, UoH’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences dean, the director of Indian Studies, and representatives from both UoH and the Houston Tamil Studies Chair. This partnership, rooted in the MoU, has laid the foundation for the ICCR chair of Indian Studies, which will be held by a visiting scholar from India, specializing in Tamil studies, commencing in the fall of 2023.

Picture: TheUNN

The visiting professor assumes a multifaceted role, encompassing the education of students, collaboration on research initiatives, and the delivery of public presentations aimed at promoting Tamil culture. With a global community of over 80 million speakers, the Tamil language boasts an ancient heritage, positioning it among the world’s oldest languages. Remarkably, the United States is home to nearly 300,000 Tamil-Americans.

UoH President Renu Khator, who holds the distinction of being the first Indian immigrant to lead a comprehensive research university in the United States, expressed gratitude for the collaboration with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. She noted that this partnership would undoubtedly fortify the cultural bonds between the two nations. She emphasized that expanding the university’s international presence enriches the educational journey of their students, equipping them for success on the global stage.

The University of Houston has become one of only three American universities to participate in ICCR’s global Indian chairs Abroad program, alongside Rutgers University and the University of Pittsburgh. Dan O’Connor, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, underscored the pivotal role played by the visiting professor in bridging diverse cultures. O’Connor stated, “India is not only a modern, global hub of business and culture; it’s an ancient hub as well, replete with a history, literature, and architectural heritage spanning millennia. It’s imperative to safeguard this legacy through collaborative partnerships like this, for the benefit of tomorrow’s global leaders, some of whom are currently being nurtured right here at UH.”

The roots of this academic collaboration trace back to 2019 when the non-profit organization Houston Tamil Studies Chair, Inc. pledged a substantial $2 million donation to the University of Houston. This generous contribution led to the establishment of an endowed chair in Tamil studies. Additionally, the Mutyala family contributed $250,000, endowing the Sita and Bhaskara Rao Mutyala Professorship of India Studies, a position currently held by Sarasij Majumder.

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