Andhra: Telugu professors do homeland proud

Telugu professors do homeland proud


Hyderabad: It is said that if there’s one thing Telugus value more than gold, it’s education. What’s well known is that in the best of universities across the world, Telugus are among the creme de la creme of the student pool. But not content with just learning, Telugus are also making a mark for themselves as teachers.

Donning a teacher’s robe is not a novel career choice, just one that has been largely overshadowed by the more visible options of engineering and medicine for Telugus. But these intellectually inclined folk can no longer be ignored.

Analysts estimate that there are easily more than 300-400 academicians of Telugu origin in universities across the US alone, including the Ivy League. They are not just fixtures in the Foreign Language or the South-Asian Studies departments but are distinguished research scholars, professors, heads of departments, deans, vice presidents, among others.

Some very distinguished academicians are people of Telugu origin. Consider Mysore-born Telugu man Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao (popularly known as CR Rao).

Currently a Professor Emeritus at Penn State Unisity, 89-year old Rao is a living legend and among the best known statisticians in the world. He has won innumerable awards, has 28 honorary degrees from u n ive r s i t i e s over 17 countries and has his name etched in history for giving ‘Cramer-Rao bound’ and ‘Rao-Blackwell theorem’ to the world.

Contemporary IT students will certainly have heard of Raj Reddy, the man behind the establishment of the IIIT at Hyderabad. A native of Katur in Chittoor district, this former professor at Stanford University is a pioneer, having founded the first-of-its-kind Robotics Institute in Carnegie Mellon University, way back in 1979.

CR Rao and Raj Reddy might be most prominent, but many other Telugus are shining on the American academic scene. Dr Balamurali Ambati, India’s own ‘Doogie Howser’ became the world’s youngest doctor when graduated at 17.

So what drives these academicians to become the achievers that they are?”Telugus do not care for name, fame or designation but teach because of their love for teaching,” explains Pudur Jagdeeswaran, a professor at the University of North Texas. He believes that Telugus, like most Indian professors, are able to bring more to their classroom because of their global outlook. Besides that, their excellent academic records, commitment to hard work and training skills nurtured in India help, he adds.

Which probably explains why several of these academicians are occupying responsible positions in their universities as well. For instance Krishna Palepu, the Senior Associate Dean for International Development at Harvard Business School and also Ross Walker professor of Business Administration. Michael Rao is the President of Virginia Commonwealth University.

Breaking stereotypes, more and more Telugu teachers are reaching beyond subjects of engineering and medicine to social sciences, media and cultural studies, journalism etc. Speaking for Indian academicians (particularly Telugus) former professor of journalism, Ananth Babbilli also Dean, Provost and Vice President Academic Affairs at Texas A&M says, “Our intellectual depth nurtured by a multicultural and diverse cultural milieu in which we grew up, coupled with a confident global intuition are the secrets of our success”. He received the Texas Professor of the Year award by the Carnegie Foundation.

Vamsee Juluri, professor of Media Studies at University of San Fransico says that its natural for Telugus to be excellent professors, no matter what their subject, because they come from a culture of learning and a mindset that requires respect for education. On his part he always trying to break stereotypes and represent the Telugu voice of India in his class. He routinely screens Tollywood movies to hisDo students to give them a better insight into Telugu culture.

While spreading gyan among global students, mana gurus seem to be doing their homeland proud.

Top Dons
CR Rao Raj Reddy Dr Balamurali Ambati Pudur Jagdeeswaran Krishna Palepu Michael Rao Ananth Babbilli Vamsee Juluri

From rags to role model


Hyderabad: In 1986, a young couple from a middle-class family from Gannavaram, a small town in Andhra Pradesh, left behind their children to go to USA, seeking a job and an opportunity for a better life. Today, they are a role model in the society they live in.

Prasad Thotakura, who started off his career as a teacher, was a marketing manager in Mobil Oil Corporation, Texas, for 10 years before assuming the post of President Elect of Telugu Association of North America (TANA), General Secretary of Indian American Friendship Council (IAFC) and the COO of – a webportal that helps connect more than a million South-Asians.

Prasad has been a member of the IAFC for eight years, an organisation cited by the Congress for its work in strengthening Indo-American relations. Prasad says he works with the IAFC because “it aims to bring minorities closer to the mainstream and endeavours to educate US policy makers to needs of Indians.”

Towards this end, it actively supports Indian Americans running for office on bi-partisan levels and aims to encourage youth to take part in active politics. Prasad Thotakura is known for his fund-raising efforts, notably for raising more than half a million dollars for victims of Orissa cyclone, Gujarat quake and the Kargil war.

In 1996, he also led a team of volunteers to coordinate a fund-raising effort for relief during the Andhra Pradesh cyclone. Prasad is on the Board of Directors of Dallas Fort Worth’s World Affairs Council; on the Asian Advisory Committees of American Cancer Society, Texas; International Theatrical Art Society and several other prestigious councils involved in social service and community welfare.

All this seems a far cry from his humble beginnings when he and his wife had to resort to a number of odd jobs to put themselves through college in the US. Then, their zeal for a stable sustenance was fuelled by an all-consuming desire to bring their children, who they had left in India.

They succeeded in doing so in 1990, four years after they had entered US. The hard work he and his wife put in during the time was the stepping stone to their success, says Prasad.

He claims while he strives to contribute to the country he lives in, his mind and heart, is and will always be, in India.

With a firm belief that education is the key to India’s future, Prasad set up a Krishna Education Development Fund in the Krishna District in the State, which has helped over 900 meritorious students go to college. But that’s just the beginning of his plans for a shining India, he promises.

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