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Indian bishop visits SEMO, proposes exchange program

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The bishop of a Catholic Diocese in India visited Southeast Missouri State University on Monday to promote a student and professor exchange.

Bishop Mathew Arackal discussed the possibility of collaboration between Southeast and Marian College Kuttikkanam, a liberal arts school in Kerala, India, near the southern tip of the country. Besides introducing the idea to officials in the school of business and the graduate school, Arackal met with Zahir Ahmed, executive director of International Education and Services, and George Dordoni, assistant director. Both were receptive to the idea.

"We'll look at the fit between institutions and whether they're a good match academically, specifically the background students receive before they would come here, the academic rigor, and recognition by various governmental entities," Dordoni said.

While the university offers study abroad programs in China, Japan, Australia and Europe, among other locations, Southeast does not currently have a relationship with an Indian institution, Dordoni said.

"From the perspective of SEMO, which is not very visible on the international map, this broadens students' perspectives," said Vivek Malik, a lawyer with Immigration Law Associates in Cape Girardeau. Malik, an alumni of Southeast, said he has been in touch with the bishop since 1994 when he was a student in India. A program could be in place by fall 2009, Malik said.

He suggested the bishop choose Southeast as a partner because Malik "owes" it to his alma mater and because Cape Girardeau would present Indian students a uniquely American experience. Ahmed said international students who study in larger cities often don't fully immerse themselves into American culture because they have access to all the comforts of home. "It's like they're living in India and going to school in the U.S.," Ahmed said.

The bishop has made stops in Texas, New York and Chicago on his trip already, but his time in Missouri is the only part of the trip related to education. He will meet with legislators in Jefferson City today, and will then head to Missouri University of Science and Technology.

He would like to establish a relationship between the Rolla, Mo., institution and Amal Jyothi College of Engineering in India.

The Catholic Diocese of Kanjirapally steers one engineering college and two arts and science colleges, along with multiple high schools and primary schools.

"This is just a preliminary visit. All the details will be charted out later," said Malik.

lbavolek@semissourian.com

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