Members of the Central Florida Indian American Community Gather at UCF to Celebrate India’s Independence Day 

In celebration of India’s 77th Independence Day, almost 200 supporters, students, faculty and members of the Indian American community gathered Sunday, Aug. 27 for an event hosted by The India Center at UCF.  The India Center also welcomed the representatives of 10 Indian American community associations and gratefully acknowledged their support.

The event held in UCF’s Live Oak Ballroom recognized the Indian American community and significance India has in the United States. Key speakers included UCF’s Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael D. Johnson, Ph.D.; Madan Kumar Ghildiyal, Acting Consul General from the Consulate General of India in Atlanta; and Aditi Walunj, First Secretary of Culture and Education, at the Embassy of India in Washington, D.C.  

“Despite India’s significance and potential, the country gets far less attention than it should in American higher education. We aim to rectify that,” said Johnson. “India’s cultural heritage is a critical part of the educational offerings at many American universities, including UCF. But the India Center at UCF aspires to be the leading place in the U.S. to study the India of today and tomorrow, and we are grateful to our donors who have joined us in this effort.”

Walunj emphasized the value of two of the world’s largest and oldest democracies increasing the exchange of information, talent and culture.  

“It is equally important for both sides to know each other, and the (India Center) provides that platform,” she said.  

In addition to comments from the speakers, attendees enjoyed a classical Indian music performance led by India Center Affiliate Faculty Member Pandit Nandkishor Muley. The event also provided opportunities to mingle and enjoy refreshments.

India Center Interim Director and Associate Dean of the College of Sciences Kerstin Hamann, Ph.D. said events like Sunday’s play a key role in boosting awareness around the India Center and engaging with the Central Florida Indian American community.

“The India Center would not be possible without community support. The community has a core part in supporting and advancing the India Center’s goals,” Hamann said.

Among the community supporters in attendance was Anil Deshpande, president of Deshpande Inc. A native of India and longtime Central Florida resident, Deshpande said every first-generation immigrant is a bridge between the country where they came from and where they live now.  

It’s important that both India and the United States get along well and “that they learn and benefit from each other,” Deshpande said. “That’s the India Center’s work.”  

Education is greatly valued in Indian culture, and one of the top educations in the world can be found in the United States, said Ghildiyal, the Acting Consul General. Cultivating a skilled workforce in India depends partly on partnering with American institutions like UCF to lean on their expertise, Ghildiyal said.  Ghildiyal also sees value in exchange students gaining new perspectives by visiting, studying and living in India and the U.S.  

“When you put yourself in someone’s culture, then you can appreciate their point of view,” Ghildiyal said.


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