India Higher Education Administrators Seminar, March 19, 2009

Fisherman slum in Mumbai.  Note nets for catching fish in the picture.

Fisherman slum in Mumbai. Note in the picture the nets for catching fish.

SNDT Women's University Mumbai
SNDT Women’s University (Juhu Campus)

We traveled to Mumbai today via airplane. Then, we went to SNDT Women’s University to visit with the vice chancellor and faculty. SNDT is the oldest women’s university in India. Most students are first generation students and come from the city and surrounding rural areas. Most students are studying under scholarship. The motto of SNDT is “Sanskrita Stree Parashakti” or “An enlightened woman is a source of infinite strength.” The university’s mission is to help in enhancing employability and income generation capacity. That is, the university is about women’s empowerment through access to education. SNDT has many different academic programs, extensions, and outreach programs. SNDT’s programs include comparative literature and diaspora studies in the Department of English, Women’s Studies, Nursing, International Business, Music (traditional and classical), and Library Science. The facilities were more basic than other institutions but students were everywhere and seemed to be engaged. This is an interesting institution that is serving women in a meaningful way and doing so with very limited resources.

SNDT mission statement

SNDT mission statement

We’ve decided that Mumbai is a wonderful city. The buildings have lots of character, the air is fresh with the breeze from the Indian Ocean, and the streets are lush with trees and green grass. The food is definitely spicier than Delhi (which delights some of us). After freshening up at the hotel, we stopped by the Taj Mahal Hotel where the attacks occurred this past November. See picture below. You can see that the Taj is not yet fully repaired with some of the windows still boarded up. The Taj is next to the Gateway to India which is Mumbai’s most famous landmark. It was constructed to greet visitors to Mumbai during the heyday of the British Raj. It was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911. Ironically, the gate was not completed until 1924! We then stopped at FabIndia which is a store that many Indians purchase saris and other clothes made of silk and cotton. All of us exited the store with some presents and new clothes.

Taj Mahal Hotel Mumbai (site of November 2009 attacks)

Taj Mahal Hotel Mumbai (site of November 2009 attacks)

Other thoughts tonight. Mumbai has many, many slums including one just a stone’s throw from the hotel. It seems a part of life in Mumbai. You can see the fishermen’s houses not too far from our hotel in the picture above. Also, everywhere we went we were confronted by many people peddling their wares. One person followed us from the bus to FabIndia and waited an hour for us until we were finished shopping! I found that if I am very firm then they don’t bother me.

In front of Gate of India

In front of Gateway to India

Also, we are starting to worry that these institutions we are visiting have their hopes that we will directly work to initiate collaborations with them. Our mission is to learn more about Indian institutions of higher education. Once we have this information we can then determine if we want to pursue collaborations. However, we need some basic information from them – average course enrollment, student services provided, housing options, etc. It is much too complicated to even think about an agreement until we learn a lot more about each of these individual institution.

Tomorrow we continue our stay in Mumbai to see two more institutions of higher education.

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About bethacunningham

Professor of Physics
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