Last Saturday, April 1, twenty-six students in India received degrees from Virginia Tech as a result of an unusual partnership between the university and one of India’s top business schools.

The students received a master of information technology from Virginia Tech and a postgraduate diploma in systems management from the S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research in Mumbai. The graduation ceremony, held at the S.P. Jain Institute, was attended by Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, Board of Visitors Rector Ben Davenport, Pamplin College of Business Dean Richard E. Sorensen, and other university representatives.

The students have received 35 job offers, with salaries above the industry average in India, according to Sunil Rai, a professor and chair of the program at S.P. Jain, which stresses management leadership and has established partnerships with major information technology companies in India that provide guidance on current practices and technology.

Launched in fall 2004, the graduate program in India is an extension of Virginia Tech’s award-winning Master of Information Technology (VTMIT) program, which offers business and engineering courses wholly online for full-time professionals. The India program, however, combines online instruction with face-to-face, classroom instruction by faculty members that include Virginia Tech professors who travel to India to teach.

The original goals for the VTMIT included making it available internationally, for it to be “broadcast without boundaries,” said Tarun Sen, associate dean for graduate and international programs at the Pamplin College of Business, which runs the program for the university.

Virginia Tech’s joint venture with S.P. Jain is unusual, Sen said. Though several U.S. schools have helped foreign universities launch educational programs, most have not offered their own degree programs abroad. Such an initiative, Sen noted, extends and builds on an institution’s engagement in international programs.

“Our own students have been participating for many years in study-abroad programs led by our faculty. Foreign students have long been coming to Virginia Tech to study. And some of our faculty members have done teaching stints at universities abroad,” Sen said. “It is natural and perhaps necessary, given the state of technology today, that we also reach out and offer our degree programs in other countries.” Doing so, he said, enhances the university’s visibility and may bring more foreign students to the campus to earn other degrees.

Sen believes that “broadcasting” education without boundaries may be particularly appropriate in information technology — a global business. “The IT industry needs people with the skills and knowledge to perform effectively in many parts of the world, he said. By offering our IT programs abroad, we are helping to increase the number of people who are educated and trained in information technology and U.S. business and management concepts, and who also understand the cultural aspects of doing business in their home countries.” A globally trained workforce, he said, helps U.S. technology companies, most of which are looking overseas to enhance their revenues and profits.

Other Virginia Tech representatives who traveled to India for the ceremony are S. K. De Datta, associate provost for international affairs; John Dooley, vice provost for outreach and international affairs; Glenda Scales, associate dean for distance learning and computing in the College of Engineering; and Gene Fife, a Virginia Tech alumnus and retired chairman of Goldman Sachs International.

In addition to attending the graduation ceremony, the group is visiting Indian Institutes of Technology in New Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai to discuss undergraduate exchanges and research and other collaborations. The group will also visit the Tata Institute for Fundamental Research in Mumbai, the Ashok Leyland company in Chennai, and Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Coimbatore, where Virginia Tech has a biotechnology project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. In Chennai, President Steger hosted a reception and dinner for Virginia Tech alumni.

De Datta, who directs the Office of International Research, Education, and Development, and Dooley will go on to Bangladesh to meet with Bangladesh president Iajuddin Ahmed and review a Virginia Tech project in pest management that is also funded by the USAID.

For more information:

Virginia Tech’s Master of Information Technology

Virginia Tech’s Master of Information Technology in India

S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research

Virginia Tech’s nationally ranked Pamplin College of Business offers undergraduate and graduate programs in accounting and information systems, business information technology, economics, finance, hospitality and tourism management, management, and marketing. The college emphasizes the development of ethical values and leadership, technology, and international business skills. A member of its marketing faculty directs the interdisciplinary Sloan Foundation Forest Industries Center at Virginia Tech. The college’s other centers focus on business leadership, electronic commerce, and organizational performance. The college is committed to serving business and society through the expertise of its faculty, alumni, and students. It is named in honor of Robert B. Pamplin (BAD ’33), the former CEO of Georgia-Pacific, and his son, businessman and philanthropist Robert B. Pamplin Jr. (BAD ’64).