The first leg of the India mission found the 100-member delegation in Hyderabad in the state of Andhra Pradesh, a thriving and rapidly evolving urban environment. Although the state of Maryland is approximately 1/7 the size in population, the similarities between our two states are obvious: we are dedicated to innovation and the knowledge economy, and we are committed to economic development for our residents through a highly skilled workforce. In short, while thousands of miles and distinctive cultures separate us, it is clear that a partnership—or sister-state relationship—would provide significant benefits.
U.S. Consul General Katherine Dhanani briefed our delegation about the cultural, economic, political realities of the Indo-U.S. relationship. We also heard from the Confederation of Indian Industry and GMR Group, one of the fastest growing infrastructure enterprises in India. Sister-state agreements are being forged with the state of Andhra Pradesh, and announcements of new business partnerships—including two Montgomery County businesses—were made. Finally, a delegation contingent visited the Indian School of Business, a new graduate school that already boasts placement in the top five business schools in the world. Quite impressive!
Three interrelated observations have been profound for me. Every time someone speaks to me about Montgomery College and the partnerships we are forging in India, I am met with significant admiration and respect for the mission and function of community colleges. The egalitarian notion of community colleges—our commitment to access—resonates in a country with such a rich history as India. Indeed, a discussion with one Indian businessman left me considering that the American community college model may indeed be Maryland’s most valued export to India. And, if that is the case, is our model sustainable in this emerging space/market? Moreover, is our model sustainable in America? The notion of inclusive growth forces me to consider how we actualize our mission in a rapidly changing environment.
For instance, India’s infrastructure went from no phones to a society that uses cellular technology for nearly every function of daily life in just a matter of years. They catapulted over the landline generation and embraced cell phone technology as a leveling force. They embraced a disruptive technology, bypassing an antiquated construct that was not relevant or responsive to the needs of the rapidly evolving county. Their evolution, in this example, outpaced ours and could surpass us in ways we cannot even imagine right now.
If I can extrapolate, what will this mean for the American community college model once it has been embraced, modified, and furthered by India? What process, system, or outcome will they disabuse of us? What do we believe to be essential to how we function that they can demonstrate can be skipped, changed, or deleted? Are we capable of evolving as rapidly as our world will demand?
I remain cognizant of the binary oppositions that exist in this emerging country. Hyderabad, India is a contrast in old and new, historical and emerging—perhaps even a study of how what was and what will be can seemingly coexist with mutual respect and dignity. I find it fascinating that there is seemingly no fear of change and no regret for how the country’s evolution is affecting people’s reality. People seem to be valuing the journey. I find myself pondering this phenomenon and the cultural determinants that created the environment. I look forward to experiencing Mumbai to explore these ideas more thoroughly.
Finally, I have been extremely impressed with our governor, Martin O’Malley, and our county executive, Ike Leggett. Both speak passionately about the state and county, and they offer a compelling vision for our place in the global economy. A few times I have wanted to shout with pride, “I am Maryland! I am Montgomery County!” at the end of their speeches. Perhaps I need to learn the state and county songs so I can hum quietly when the feeling moves me...
Until next time…
- Post by Dr. DeRionne P. Pollard, president of Montgomery College