Letter from the Faculty Director: Tarun Khanna, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School
This has been an exciting year of transitions at the Mittal Institute. For over a decade, Meena Hewett and I worked tirelessly to build the Institute into the thriving, interdisciplinary hub of South Asia that it is today. Last December, we welcomed our new Executive Director, Hitesh Hathi, to lead the Institute into the next era as we expand activities in our India office and growth in-region.
Hitesh joins us from Boston’s leading NPR station, where he spent decades building the station’s most successful national and regional programs, “Here & Now” and “Radio Boston.” He is also no stranger to the Mittal Institute, having served on panels and speaking at conferences during his time as a Ph.D. student in South Asian Studies at Harvard. He has already brought tremendous energy and new ideas to the position while working with Harvard’s senior leaders and faculty members as well as staff, donors and our in-region network to collaboratively envision our next-decade goals.
Working alongside Hitesh is a committed team both in Cambridge and New Delhi, including a new finance director with a strong background in budget, human resources, and administrative operations to oversee both offices; new communications leads; and a new coordinator to work with the Institute’s growing fellowship programs. We’re excited about the team’s diversity of talents.
Back on campus
Personnel transitions are not the only changes happening; for the first time since the pandemic began, Institute staff and visitors reunited on campus last fall. Students filled the hallways and classrooms again, and joined us for events, a South Asian student group leaders’ gathering and information sessions on student funding opportunities for travel in the region. Student Grant application numbers have returned to pre-pandemic levels, which is promising. It has also been thrilling to see our fellows back at the Mittal Institute’s Cambridge offices, including Visiting Artist Fellows from India, Nepal and Pakistan, as well as our visiting scholars, Vidya Subramanian, from India, and Fulbright Fellow, Yaqoob Bangash, from Pakistan.
Students filled the hallways and classrooms again, and joined us for events, a South Asian student group leaders’ gathering and information sessions on student funding opportunities for travel in the region.
We also were able to host a handful of in-person events both at Harvard and in New Delhi this past year, despite the ongoing challenges in gathering. We had a wonderful, closed-door session geared towards Harvard students with Indian diplomat Shivshankar Menon, and an important panel discussion at the India International Centre in Delhi focused on the country’s Assembly Elections. I was lucky to attend this session in person, and it was a delight to see so many engaged students from local colleges in the audience.
New Projects on the Horizon: Healthcare in India, Climate Change and Art Conservation
We are also looking ahead to new projects and programs that will set the stage for the next decade at the Institute. The Lancet Citizens’ Commission started last year as an ambitious initiative to reimagine India’s health system and achieve universal healthcare for all. The project has seen tremendous growth and our goal now is to turn the platform into a permanent repository of expertise on healthcare for long-term and lasting impact. We have also continued to respond to critical issues in South Asia, including our work around COVID-19 and the withdrawal of the U.S. from Afghanistan last year.
A new and exciting area of focus is on climate change in the region. The Institute will draw on its experience of facilitating interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral research collaborations on a common research agenda and on developmental issues.
A new and exciting area of focus is on climate change in the region. The Institute will draw on its experience of facilitating interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral research collaborations on a common research agenda and on developmental issues. The first step would be to convene Harvard researchers and regional experts on three urgent areas of engagement that are currently neglected: Climate and Business; Climate Law; and Climate and Public Health. These areas are critical to the issue, but existing academic and policy-focused scholarship in the region is limited.
Another effort will build on our existing work in art conservation. We are working to expand our successful art conservation program, CoSTAR, into a full-scale regional heritage conservation program. Currently, CoSTAR is training museum personnel in the science and technology of art conversation in India. This work is urgently needed in every country in the region.
The introduction of these new focal areas comes as we wrap up several key projects, including the Building Bharat-Boston Biosciences (B4) and the multi-year program between the Mittal Institute and the Tata Trusts, Multidisciplinary Approach to Innovative Social Enterprises. Our highly successful Crossroads Program, which engaged first-generation college students from around the globe, has spun off into its own 501c3 entity, the Aspire Institute–an exciting move for one of our projects. The 1947 Partition of British India Project is also finishing up with the forthcoming release of a new co-edited book.
Expanding Our Reach in South Asia
As an Institute, we continue to focus on our growth in the region. The Delhi office has become a hub for intellectual engagement and a space for scholarly exchange. In addition to hosting regular (mostly virtual) events, the India team recently welcomed its first cohort of Mittal Institute India Fellows (MIIF), a unique opportunity for selected scholars to remain in residence at our Delhi office and work remotely with a Harvard faculty mentor.
In Lahore, Pakistan, we continue with our long-standing MOU with Pakistan’s leading institution of higher education, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), which provides us with a base of operations and intellectual connections for work in the country. In Nepal, our Kathmandu affiliates and program alumni serve as a resource for Harvard faculty and students. And in Bangladesh, we are also working to expand collaborations to further solidify our regional network.
As you can see, there is a lot happening at the Mittal Institute. I hope this report will give you a glimpse into the important and inspiring research and programs underway and on the horizon. As always, we look forward to hearing your ideas for how we can work together to continue to advance our mission of deepening the understanding of critical issues relevant to South Asia today.