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UAF welcomes growing contingent of Pune students

Submitted by Marmian Grimes
Phone: (907) 474-7902

11/07/06

Photo caption below.
UAF photo by Todd Paris
University students from the city of Pune, India pose for a photo with UAF and Fairbanks North Star Borough officials in UAF Chancellor Steve Jones' office in October. From left to right is: UAF professor Shirish Patil, UAF vice chancellor for administrative services Ro Bailey, freshman Rinu Samuel, UAF Chancellor Steve Jones, graduate students Akshay Deo, graduate student Aditya Deshpande,freshman Richi Sancheti, freshman Akitya Kulkarni, freshman Ashish Katariya, sophomore Shaina Bhojwani, sophomore Sagar Kamath, UAF Provost Paul Reichardt, freshman Soniya Patil, Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker, graduate student Payal Jalan and UAF International Programs director John Lehman.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks exchange program with Pune, India more than quadrupled in size this fall with the addition of a new contingent of students from Fairbanks' sister city in Asia.

The students are studying at UAF under sister city and student exchange agreements signed in 2004. The two agreements allow students from Pune to attend UAF and pay resident tuition.

During the first year of the agreement, two students from Pune attended UAF, a graduate student and an undergraduate student in the electrical and computer engineering department. This year, eight more students made the 6,000-mile journey to attend UAF. Seven are seeking engineering degrees while the eighth is enrolled in the wildlife biology department.

On Oct. 12, the students met with UAF Chancellor Steve Jones, other members of the UAF administration and Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker. They said they were adjusting well to life in Fairbanks, a notable feat given that the average December temperature in Pune is 70 degrees.

"Before I came to UAF, I was really scared and reluctant to leave my home and friends," said sophomore Shaina Bhojwani. "But after coming here and seeing how warm and friendly the people are here and how good the education system is here, I am really glad I listened to my dad and came here after all."

UAF plans to continue efforts to recruit more students from Pune. Aside from the student exchanges, the sister city relationship may offer opportunities for economic development partnerships between Pune and Fairbanks.

Shirish Patil, an associate professor of petroleum engineering at UAF, is slated to visit Pune in late November, along with a delegation from UAF, to meet with potential students and their parents.