West Virginia University took a giant step toward increasing its international footprint Tuesday (June 29) as President James P. Clements signed a memorandum of understanding with India’s VIT University, a globally renowned engineering school.

Click the arrow below to hear G. Viswanathan discuss his relationship with WVU and the importance of a WVU-VIT partnership.

[ Download as MP3 File ]

VIT University is the only institution in India and one of the few in the world with Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology accreditation for engineering and its engineering courses and curriculum are similar to WVU’s, said Michael Lastinger, associate provost of international affairs.

“We think VIT University will be an excellent partner,” Lastinger said. “The similarities between our engineering courses will make it easy to exchange students and faculty. From a strategic standpoint, India is one of the key nations in today’s global economy. We’re involved in many relationships with institutions in the U.S. and abroad but this one gives WVU a footprint into India. It’s a great opportunity for both institutions.”

The agreement signifies much more than a partnership with VIT, formerly Vellore Institute of Technology. It’s also part of a vision.

Establishing ties with institutions such as VIT will continue WVU’s mission to prepare students for the 21st century by offering international education and cultural and academic diversity. It will also significantly advance a host of initiatives crucial to both institutions.

“International education benefits everyone,” Clements said. “It offers life-changing experiences for students, broadens the horizons of faculty research and service efforts and offers opportunities to promote West Virginia’s economic development. We have embraced internationalization in our curriculum, research and outreach programs.”

The agreement is just a starting point. Plans for the partnership will include student and faculty exchanges, research collaborations and other possible ventures as the initiative unfolds.

“I consider this an important day in the history of VIT history and also in my history,” VIT Chancellor G. Viswanathan said. “It is an important event as I am part of VIT and also part of the WVU family.”

Click the arrow below to hear GV, as he prefers to be called, discuss his background.

[ Download as MP3 File ]

The story of VIT and Viswanathan parallels many of the success stories that WVU has launched—stories that reflect the power of higher education to change lives.

Viswanathan was born in a tiny Indian village but his remote environment did not stop him from achieving landmark success in academics and leadership. He earned a master’s degree in economics from Loyola College, a law degree from Madras University and, most recently, completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.

As a student leader in his 20s, Viswanathan entered the Indian parliament, championing people’s issues and was re-elected for another five-year term. Later, he served in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly.

In 1984, he established Vellore Engineering College. The college started out with 180 students, and has grown to nearly 16,000 students in 45 undergraduate and graduate programs. It has been ranked in the top 10 engineering schools in India by the magazine “India Today” and was recently ranked eighth among India’s 2,500 engineering colleges.

As chancellor, Viswanathan has continued his dedication to improving people’s lives. He offers scholarships to students from economically disadvantaged areas of India to pursue higher education and has adopted a number of villages to help improve conditions. Under his leadership, VIT has forged partnerships with more than 80 leading institutions around the world to facilitate faculty and student exchanges, joint research and development and curriculum development and to promote global thinking among its faculty and student communities.

Robert Creese, a professor of industrial engineering at WVU, learned about VIT and Viswanathan through an Indian friend and collaborator. He became an admirer and recommended him to receive a Doctorate of Humane Letters from WVU, which Viswanathan received in 2009.

“I was impressed with the rapid advancement of the university in its growth and in the leadership of Dr. Viswanathan,” Creese said. “It is amazing that a university, which started in 1984, has grown into a global leader in education and research, particularly in engineering. The partnership between West Virginia University and Vellore Institute of Technology will be beneficial to both institutions, and, ultimately the world through the students we educate and research we produce.”

It will also add to the changing look of WVU, which continues to embrace diversity. Around 1,300 international students come to WVU from about 100 countries each semester, including about 250 from India. WVU also has a robust study abroad program, offering educational opportunities in a growing list of countries and institutions. Around 800 study abroad each year.

“They learn and grow in life-changing ways, while sharing WVU with the world,” Clements said of WVU’s student-travelers.

By Dan Shrensky
Communications Specialist
WVU News & Information



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