Our college experiences — even those of us who can dimly remember them — do shape who we become. When I started at Wellesley College many years ago, I had only been out of our country once. I had gone to the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls. I was president of the Young Republicans; so you see, times do change. And, actually, when I was a senior at Wellesley, my first hope was to get a Fulbright to India. And, for reasons having to do with geopolitics, the Fulbright program was put on pause at that time. So, I ended up in Yale Law School. And, since then, I have seen the results of my education in nearly everything that I do — on pushing me to become a global citizen, rooted here in my own country, whose values and traditions I cherish, but looking outward. I see higher education as an even greater passport to opportunity and understanding. So, as we strive to facilitate that between our young people, we have to do more.
Now, the US and India have a strong history of exchange. Last year, we welcomed over 100,000 students from India to pursue college or graduate-level study here. But we think the opportunities for collaboration are even greater. And, particularly, we want to see more American students enrolling for academic credit at Indian institutions.
The US government is fully committed to enhancing this academic cooperation. The Obama-Singh initiative provides $10 million for increased university partnership and junior faculty development. The Fulbright-Nehru program has nearly tripled in size in the past three years, and we are proud that the US now conducts more faculty exchanges with India than with any other country through this program. And, with our new Passport to India program, we are working with the private sector to help more American students experience India through internships and service projects. We’ve expanded our Education USA advising services for Indian students and their families to provide information about opportunities for study, and frankly, to help you sort out misleading offers that come over the internet, giving students the idea that a certain approach will work for them when, in fact, it is a dead end. We don’t want to see that happen. We want to see real exchanges with credible institutions. We’re also encouraging state and local officials in our country to engage with their counterparts in India to support educational cooperation and connection at every level. So, we’re going to continue to facilitate dialogues like this, but we’re asking you to develop direct connections, faculty to faculty, student to student, business to business.
There are so many wonderful stories. I’m sure many of you could tell your own, but I want to end with this one because it really hits close to home in an area that I care deeply about. A few years ago, a small group of American and Indian classmates at Stanford University decided to work together to build a better baby incubator. Four hundred and fifty premature and low-weight babies die every hour, and traditional baby incubators can cost as much as $20,000. So, the students developed the Embrace baby warmer, a portable incubator for use in poor and rural areas that doesn’t require electricity and only costs around $100. After graduating from Stanford, this Indian and American team moved to Bangalore to continue working on their idea and launched their project. And, it’s now in use in hospitals in India and saving babies’ lives. Their goal is to save 100,000 babies by 2013.
Now, this is a simple idea born out of conversations between students from both of our countries talking about shared hopes for a better world. It took students from diverse backgrounds and perspectives working together to make it happen.
So, I’d like to challenge all of us to jumpstart these kinds of relationships and opportunities for cooperation today, and there is no better way to do it than to brainstorm in the sessions this afternoon to consider no idea off limits, no outcome impossible, asking yourselves: How can our universities deepen our collaboration and particularly our student and faculty exchanges, and how can we set goals for ourselves that we then work toward meeting?
We want our relationship between these two great democracies to be as interconnected as possible at every level. Yes, government to government, but that is just the beginning and is clearly not the most important of the lasting collaborations that we seek.
Edited excerpts from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks at the US-India Higher Education Summit in Washington on October 13