Ecstatic anticipation: First four Tata scholars from India will arrive with the Class of ’13 this fall

May 7, 2009

CORNELL CHRONICLE — Four incoming freshmen from India are the first recipients of the Tata Scholarship for Students from India, creating the inaugural class of what could eventually comprise two dozen continually supported Indian undergraduates at Cornell.

"There is a maelstrom of emotions coursing through my veins," said Aadeetya Shreedhar, a Tata scholar who will be entering Cornell's College of Engineering. "There is jubilation at the achievement, ecstatic anticipation for the future and surreal pleasure in being able to say that I am a Cornellian." Shreedhar attended the NES International School in Mumbai.

The new scholarship program is the result of a $25 million commitment from the Tata Education and Development Trust, a philanthropic entity of India's Tata Group. When fully endowed, the scholarship fund will support six or more students in each undergraduate class and could ultimately support up to 25 Tata scholars at Cornell at any one time.

The Tata Trust's primary objective in establishing the scholarship is to open Cornell's doors to Indian youth who might otherwise consider the university out of their reach. Ratan Tata '59, (B.Arch. '62), is one of Cornell's most eminent alumni and chairman of Tata Sons Ltd., the holding company of the Tata Group, one of India's oldest, largest and most respected business conglomerates, operating in seven business sectors and employing approximately 320,000 people. The Tata scholarships are based on financial need as well as several stated academic tracks. Preference is given to students enrolling in the College of Architecture, Art and, Planning; the College of Engineering; the applied economics and management major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; the biological, physical and other "hard" sciences; and the social sciences. In the inaugural class of Tata scholars, three are heading for the College of Engineering and one to the College of Arts and Sciences, said Doris Davis, associate provost for admissions and enrollment.

Earlier this year Cornell launched an extensive outreach campaign in India to recruit students and build awareness of the scholarships. More than 30 students from India have been offered admission to Cornell for the fall 2009 incoming freshman class, said Davis — a significant increase from the 13 students who were offered admission last year.

Davis and Jason Locke, director of Cornell's Undergraduate Admissions Office, traveled to India in April to meet with admitted students, including five students (one later dropped out) who were offered Tata scholarships and their families. As part of that trip, Cornell hosted a Tata Scholarship Recognition Luncheon in Mumbai "to recognize these students in a formal and public way," Davis said. "They didn't just get a letter. We traveled to Mumbai to congratulate them." The occasion was a powerful, emotional event, Davis said, because of the tremendous feelings of pride voiced by the students and their parents. A representative from the Tata Trust also spoke at the luncheon, lauding the promise the scholars hold for the future of India.

"For some of these students, it would absolutely not be possible" to attend Cornell, Davis said. "These students need funding to come to Cornell. ... They might have good options in India; they are among the best of the best, but the thought of coming to Cornell was so far beyond any of their imaginations. That's why one dad said he came home right away when his son got the [funding letter], because he could not believe it, that something like that was happening to his son."

"It's a really good feeling to be a Tata scholar because I wouldn't be coming to Cornell if it weren't for the Tata scholarship," said Ashwathi Iyer, who will be a student in the College of Engineering. "I'm really excited about the freedom I'll get in choosing my courses over the next four years." Iyer attended Bishop Cotton Girls School in Bangalore.

The Tata Trust is also providing $25 million for the Tata-Cornell Initiative in Agriculture and Nutrition. The combined $50 million endowment was announced last fall by President David Skorton, who called the gift "one of the most generous endowments ever received from an international benefactor by an American university."

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