Krishnaswami “Hari” Srihari, dean of the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science, takes part in the school's Commencement ceremony in May in the Events Center.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Watson dean honored for internationalization
July 11, 2014Tweet
His team kept the nomination quiet, so it came as a surprise to Krishnaswami “Hari” Srihari when he received notification that he would be recognized with the Michael P. Malone International Leadership Award for outstanding contributions to further international education in public higher education.
But the distinguished professor and dean of the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science credits that same team of people with making the award possible. He said it takes everyone – faculty, students, staff and administrators – to create a culture of internationalization.
“This is a wonderful recognition of Binghamton’s efforts in globalization and it’s not done by one person,” said Srihari. “It’s an effort that’s been going on for a long time. We have always placed a focus on globalization and internationalization. This is something that is independent of who is in the Watson School and it will continue because Watson has a really good team. It’s not one human being.”
Srihari’s nomination was coordinated by Katharine Krebs, vice provost for international affairs, who wrote that, “Dean Srihari has crafted a set of interrelated synergistic strategies that include identifying research and teaching opportunities abroad, developing pipelines of highly qualified international students, nurturing international alumni relations, and identifying opportunities for students to intern or study abroad. His strategic thinking is based on an understanding of higher education systems in other countries, global knowledge production, technology needs abroad, and the importance of relationship-building.”
“I strongly believe that our students will live in a world that is a lot more globalized than what we think,” Srihari said. “The way the world has transformed in the last 25 years, when our students are mid-career, they will be a very different world. They shouldn’t have any barriers and should be able to work with people from anywhere with no hurdles.
“This is also going to be a tremendous advantage for our students when they go out into the world,” he added, “so we need to make sure our faculty and staff have global experiences. Some are very adept at working with people across the globe. Others have not had the same opportunities, so we have to make it across the board because faculty who work with global collaborators and partners in other countries bring that global perspective to their classes.”
It is extremely important to bring staff into globalization efforts as well, said Srihari, and to work with excellent universities across the globe. The Watson School works with a select set of universities in countries including China, India, Turkey, Korea, Jordan and Israel.
“We can’t work with all universities, so we do use criteria to look at whom we want to partner with,” Srihari said. “For example, China and India because of their size and demographics. They make up 40 percent of the world’s population so we cannot ignore them. In addition, Korea is definitely there. Jordan, Israel, Turkey are all areas we have worked with and have significant strengths.”
The Watson School looks at specific partners in each country, what areas pose opportunities to cooperate and collaborate, and how can the partnership be sustained long-term. “We’re always looking to start with a high potential, mutually beneficial initiative that can be grown over time so we have a multifaceted, broad-based relationship that is institution-to-institution that transcends an individual’s tenure.”
A partnership with VIT Pune in India is one example, Srihari said. The relationship grew after one faculty member – Nagen Nagarur – visited in 2010. Since then, multiple people including Srihari, Vice President for Research Bahgat Sammakia and numerous faculty have visited, taught courses and solidified the partnership. “Now, it’s not a relationship based on just one individual, it is broad and deep, and has grown and built on our strengths. It’s good for the campus and for Watson and it’s mutually beneficial.”
Another example is an exchange program with KAIST (formerly known as the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) that has been going on for about five years and connects KAIST students with Watson students working on senior design projects. Binghamton students are also studying there and KAIST students are attending Binghamton over the summer. Faculty such as Professor Daryl Santos and Professor SB Park have been critical to the inception and growth of our academic partnership with KAIST.
These Watson exchanges are not a one-person effort, Srihari said. “There are a lot of people involved. We have multiple people on our faculty from these countries and we can use their expertise in coming up with strategies to build on. This is not all centrally directed because it is faculty doing different things that bring it to the Watson School level.
“Our faculty are key and absolutely critical in making this work and their presence is very important,” he added. “We’re very lucky to have faculty from so many different countries willing to provide help and expertise. The other thing we are able to do is leverage this for our graduate recruitment program.”
Srihari said each one of these places offers an opportunity to get the Binghamton and Watson names out there. “We do a lot for these schools and our people are Watson ambassadors for us, and now these universities are helping us with recruitment with others in their geographic areas,” he said.
“When we go to another organization we can say we work with VIT Pune for example, and right away we have instant credibility. They’ll vouch for us.”
We want the best and brightest from around the globe to come to Binghamton, no matter where they are from, Srihari said, underscoring that by noting that there are now 54 countries represented in the Watson School.
The team is key in making everything work. In the next two months, a faculty member will go to VIT Vellore to review how they’re doing senior design, a faculty team and associate dean will travel to Mumbai and Bangalore in September, faculty are teaching at VIT Pune this summer. Graduate recruitment in India is coming up and faculty and students are abroad on ambassador programs. “There are so many people involved. My office just coordinates their efforts,” Srihari said.
“We have a very good set of people who go do things in other countries and our job at best is to coordinate all of that, and also make sure that we keep ourselves to a certain number because of band width,” Srihari said. “We could work with many more, but we don’t have the human resources and human capital to do that.”
The only negative for Srihari is that global expansion can’t happen much faster, but for him, the bottom line is that the Watson School would be doing its students a disservice if it didn’t prepare them to work in a globalized economy.
“There are very smart people everywhere and we can learn from every trip and every visit,” he said. “In America we work with people from all parts of the world, but that’s not likely in every other country. We take it for granted but it is very unique in America where diversity is very important.
“The diversity of thought that we’re able to work with in America may not be there in other countries, but most countries are realizing that they must work in a globalized world as much as they can and wherever they can,” Srihari said. “What we’ve been able to do for hundreds of years now is to bring in immigrants and utilize people’s knowledge whatever their expertise is.”
Next up on the global level for Srihari – taking advantage of connections in France, Thailand and Brazil that bring additional opportunities for building relationships in those countries and subsequently converting them into solid partnerships.
The award, which will be presented to Srihari at the APLU’s Commission on International Initiatives summer meeting on July 14, is the second Malone Award for Binghamton University. Former President Lois B. DeFleur was recognized for Binghamton’s comprehensive approach to internationalization in 2007.