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Fulbright Scholar Exchange provides Indian homecoming and new insights for Sanjay Ramchander

October 10, 2011

In a modern political and economic era when interaction between people and nations seems reduced to shouted insults or snarky exchanges on cable television shows, the idea of an exchange program with the goal "to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries" has a certain attractiveness to it.

Heart of the program

The expectation underlying that goal – to increase understanding and awareness – was at the heart of Sanjay Ramchander’s recently completed Fulbright Scholar Exchange Program in his native India. Ramchander served as a visiting lecturer in business administration at the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) in Pilani, India. It was a career-impacting experience that the new chair of the Finance and Real Estate Department in the College of Business won’t soon forget.

“This exchange allowed me to exchange ideas and increase my awareness in many areas, including the academic environment in India, discipline-specific knowledge, local business conditions, and the aspirations of the young people studying business there,” Ramchander said.

Ramchander was chosen for the Fulbright Scholar Exchange Program after a lengthy and rigorous application process. Scholarship positions are awarded on a competitive basis across the nation based on academic merit and leadership potential. Each year, about 1,200 professor scholar grants are made involving 155 nations. Since the program’s inception in 1946, more than 310,000 Fulbrighters – 116,900 from the United States and 192,800 from other countries – have participated in the program.

A premier institution

The Birla Institute, where Ramchander served four months during the 2010-11 school year, is one of the premier educational institutions in India and has a long and distinguished history. Founded by industrialist Ghanshyam Das “G.D.” Birla (1894–1983), the school is named for him in recognition of his leadership not only in business, but also in fighting for India’s independence.

“BITS is located in the northwest part of India, about 200 kilometers (about 124 miles) west of Delhi, in the state of Rajasthan,” Ramchander said. “It is a rural community with a tiny population of only 30,000. I felt quite welcome there as they were looking for someone with my background technical expertise to teach business analysis and valuation and present topics on risk management.”

Although he is a native of India, Ramchander had no previous ties to BITS.

“The value for me professionally was the opportunity to teach in a different learning environment, and personally to be able to travel with my family and visit places of historical interest (such as Old Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur),” he said. “It was exciting to interact with people there and learn about their perspectives on important local issues, and of course, it was also wonderful to experience the outstanding food and hospitality.”

A means of conveyance in India.A different educational environment

Teaching in India provided Ramchander with some interesting contrasts to his experiences in CSU classrooms. “The teaching method there emphasizes drilling down of fundamental concepts with a top-down learning model,” he said. “Students are generally smart, resourceful, quantitatively focused and computer savvy, but they are a bit bashful when it comes to asking questions and participating in class discussions.”

The culture requires students to behave rather “reverentially” toward instructors and as a result, they require more encouragement to open up and share their thoughts.

During his teaching assignment at BITS, students were required to complete several valuation projects of local companies that included a competitive market analysis, cost of capital calculation, cash flow estimation and sensitivity analysis, similar to the ones undertaken by CSU students. The majority of Ramchander’s students were engineering majors taking his class as an elective.

One of the remarkable things that Ramchander noticed was that faculty and students show a high degree of confidence in the ability of technological innovations to promote business sustainability, and are particularly focused on the economic development and social welfare of rural India.

Challenges for the country

He identified several challenges facing India including corporate governance, energy and water resource management, democratization of banking services in rural India, infrastructure development and improvements, and the need to maintain high levels of political integrity among national, state and local governments.

“I’ve enjoyed witnessing firsthand the tremendous economic and social transformations taking place in an important part of the globe and would strongly encourage other faculty members to consider a Fulbright opportunity to experience similar benefits,” he said.

More about the Fulbright Scholars Program

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

More information