First annual India Day highlights student and faculty achievements

The Vice Provost for International Programs Dr. James Scott: “The Indian community has been so productive for the University of Missouri and helps our reputation in so many ways.”

The first-ever India Day, hosted by the Cultural Association of India, celebrated Indian culture and achievements by showcasing talents of MU alumni, students and faculty.

“India has been represented by Bollywood dance and flashy colors and many times it has masked what talent India has,” CAI President Prathamesh Bandekar said. “We wanted something of that sort to come up, people of Indian origin to be highlighted. We look for people who are highly involved and we want to highlight their work.”

This is the first India Day event since the CAI was founded in 1957. Making this event a reality was not easy, Bandekar said. The organization has hosted India Night before, but the CAI wanted another event that acknowledges, commemorates and celebrates scholarship on MU’s campus, said Smita Aggarwal, the vice president of external affairs for the CAI.

She also said future India Day events will hold the same spirit but have a different theme. Using this criteria, the CAI invited speakers who have made a mark in the Indian community as well as MU.

Interim Chancellor Hank Foley welcomed the guests and James Scott, the Vice Provost for International Programs, gave the opening remarks.

Foley has a lot of Indian doctorate and master’s students who work for him, which is part of the reason that India Day was so important to him, he said.

“The fact that we’re all here raises awareness and cultural appreciation among the Indian community,” Foley said.

The chief guest was Ausaf Sayeed, the consul general of India-Chicago, and the keynote speaker was Surendra Gupta, president and CEO of American Radiolabeled Chemicals, Inc. The CAI also had two distinguished speakers, Meera Chandrasekhar, a curators professor in the department of physics, and Ramesh Khanna, the vice chairman of the department of medicine, along with two postdoctoral fellows, Sangho Bok and Sagar Gupta.

Surendra Gupta talked about his journey to becoming the President and CEO of ARC Inc. in St. Louis. Gupta’s company is one of the largest suppliers of radiochemicals in the world and has won multiple awards for his achievements. His company works closely with the UM System, and he has a scholarship fund for Indian students who want to attend the UM-St. Louis.

Meera Chandrasekhar was recognized for her achievement in increasing the rate of high school students taking physics before they took chemistry or biology by 10 percent in Missouri but 20 percent nationwide. She accomplished this through her curriculum that trains high school teachers in physics, so that they’re able to make physics more appealing to students.

Ramesh Khanna, who worked closely with Karl Nolph, the MD chairman in nephrology at MU, has made great breakthroughs in peritoneal dialysis. This has been especially beneficial for those with severe kidney problems. The two also established the Annual Dialysis Conference, which has come to be the biggest conference for nephrologists and others interested in this field. This will be the conference’s 36th year.

To increase the MU-India connection, Scott plans to document all interactions with the Indian community and encourage the university to do so as well.

“The Indian community has been so productive for the University of Missouri and helps our reputation in so many ways,” Scott said. “I just wanted to make sure that everyone knows about this.”

In future India Day events, Scott hopes to add more visibility to this event and highlight more student work, along with faculty achievements.

“I’d like to see more people participate next year who are not Indian so that we have more mixing of cultures,” Foley said. “We need to do a better job of advertising these kinds of cultural affairs and events.”

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