The University of Houston has partnered with the Indian government to expand its teaching and research on Tamil language, literature and culture. The University and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) signed a Memorandum of Understanding on March 29, 2023 to establish the ICCR Chair of Indian Studies, a position to be held by a visiting scholar from India with expertise in Tamil studies beginning this fall.
The visiting professor in the UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences will teach students, collaborate with faculty on research and do public presentations throughout the semester to preserve and promote Tamil culture. The Tamil language is considered the oldest in the world, spoken by more than 80 million people – the United States is home to nearly 300,000 Tamil-Americans.
“We are grateful to the Indian Council for Cultural Relations for this collaboration that will surely strengthen the cultural ties between our two countries,” said University of Houston President Renu Khator, the first Indian immigrant to lead a comprehensive research university in the United States. “Expanding the University’s international footprint enhances the educational experience for our students, and prepares them for success on the global stage.”
UH is only the third American university to partner with the ICCR on its global Indian Chairs Abroad program, along with Rutgers University and the University of Pittsburgh. Dan O’Connor, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, said the visiting professor will be a bridge across multiple disciplines.
“India is not only a modern, global hub of business and culture, it’s an ancient hub as well that’s rich in history, literature and architecture going back millennia,” said O’Connor, who noted candidates for the position are currently being evaluated. “It’s important to preserve that heritage through partnerships like this for tomorrow’s global leaders, some of whom we are teaching right here at UH.”
The visiting professor’s appointment will be for one semester but could be extended to a full year. A new visiting professor could be selected for subsequent semesters.
The MOU is the latest step in a years-long effort to bolster the university’s Indian Studies program. In 2019, the nonprofit organization Houston Tamil Studies Chair, Inc. pledged $2 million to UH to establish an endowed chair in Tamil studies, and the Mutyala family donated $250,000 to establish the Sita and Bhaskara Rao Mutyala Endowed Professor of India Studies, currently held by Sarasij Majumder.