Indian president’s visit a good model for future events

Former Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s visit to UK didn’t just generate buzz for a few days — it’s also going to leave a lasting impact on campus.

UK announced Monday night that it would be creating a new Center of Excellence for Indian Studies to focus on research and instruction about Indian business, language and religion. The center would get financial support from a newly established endowment fund named after Kalam, which would also fund two endowed professorships in the Gatton College of Business and Economics.

The creation of the new research center is a light at the end of the tunnel for UK, which is currently stuck with a freeze on hiring and other restrictions as a result of the state budget slowdown. In a time when UK’s quests for top-20 status and diversity across the campus seem at a standstill due to economic problems, Kalam’s endowment fund is a surprise step in the right direction for achieving these important goals.

As if the endowment and center that have resulted from UK’s collaboration with Kalam are not enough reason to support further interactions with world leaders, the large crowd of students anxious to meet and listen to Kalam is proof of the success of this cross-cultural relationship.

UK should continue to try to bring in international leaders, not only to work toward top-20 and diversity goals, but also because learning and interacting with other cultures is an essential part of a rounded liberal arts education.

Leaders like Kalam who see past superficial differences and are able to form connections between such distant places as Kentucky and India are ideal for enlightening students and faculty about other cultures. Kalam has a plan to make India a fully developed nation, and through his collaboration with UK, he will be able to spread his vision as far as the bluegrass.