"St. Xavier's is a top-notch institution," said Lorrie Clemo, provost and vice president of academic affairs at Oswego. "I am delighted that through the partnership we will widen Oswego's educational commitment and involvement in India. We aim to keep a constant flux of students and faculty between our colleges that will foster a greater appreciation of India's people, culture, economy and politics."
Four years ago, Distinguished Teaching Professor Geraldine Forbes of Oswego's history faculty began talking with the president of St. Xavier's, and wrote a report recommending the college as a strong candidate for academic ties with SUNY Oswego.
"St. Xavier's is one of the best-run, best-organized and most efficient colleges in India," said Forbes, who travels to the subcontinent once or twice a year for research, teaching and conferences. "I couldn't think of a better place for our students to go."
The Jesuit-run, English-speaking college traces its roots to 1860, the year before Edward Austin Sheldon founded SUNY Oswego's forerunner, the Oswego Primary Teachers' Training School. Long affiliated with Calcutta University in the country's British-style educational system, St. Xavier's became autonomous in 2006.
The college, in the state of West Bengal in eastern India, has undergraduate programs in business, arts and sciences, mass communication and in multimedia and animation. Graduate programs include computer science, biotechnology, microbiology, physics, business and education.
Joshua McKeown, director of international education and programs at SUNY Oswego, said the St. Xavier's agreement is a strong step in a long-term development process for the college's relationships in India.
Over the course of 14 years, Forbes has taken dozens of students to India for study and research. In recent years, the college's Global Laboratory has sent students there for summer research opportunities. Yet the State University system generally has few semester-length study-abroad options there, McKeown said.
"India is a very complex country in which to run a study-abroad program," McKeown said. He cited issues such as academic calendar alignment, curriculum, housing, local transportation and security.
The new agreement with St. Xavier's came after McKeown and Clemo made visits to St. Xavier's, met with its president Father Felix Raj, and came away impressed and satisfied with the viability of an exchange relationship. In October, Ashis Mitra, chair of the Indian college's academic council, visited Oswego and signed the accord with President Deborah F. Stanley.
Two Indian students from St. Xavier's studied at SUNY Oswego this summer, Forbes said, and both "loved the experience."
Forbes said Oswego students should love the St. Xavier's experience as well. For one thing, the college in Kolkata shares Oswego's concern with social justice and service learning. "Every student every semester does service learning," she said.
Twice a year, St. Xavier's buses in children from among the poorest villages in the region for a fair on campus, Forbes said. "The college students donate money to make sure every child wins a prize," she said.