The Telugu community settled in California has founded the first U.S.-based university for Indian performing arts. The University of Silicon Andhra (UofSA) offers Masters, diploma and certificate programmes in Carnatic music and Kuchipudi dance. The university is a natural progression of its namesake, the Silicon Andhra Association, a popular cultural organisation promoting Telugu language, literature and Indian arts among Telugu-speaking people settled in the United States.
The non-profit UofSA, which has the necessary approvals to accept students who have completed their Class 12 from across the country, became functional on January 30 from a 25,000 sq ft building in Milpitas, a gateway to California and situated on an important highway.
The ‘hybrid’ teaching programme includes both virtual lessons from expert India-based faculty and weekend onsite classes and study planning. “We are fortunate to have eminent faculty with doctorates in Carnatic music and Kuchipudi dance. Faculty of reputed institutions in Hyderabad and Chennai came to the University of Silicon Andhra for a week in January to conduct an orientation programme,” CEO and president of the university, Anand Kuchibhotla, a resident of San Jose, told The Hindu .
Fourteen students from ten States have enrolled for the two-year Masters programme; the year-long diploma and certificate programmes have 12 and 10 students, respectively. The courses are meant for students furthering their interest in the arts, and experienced artistes looking to teach them. Eventually, in about 5-10 years, the university may move to a larger campus, with courses in ‘mainstream’ programmes such as computational logistics and biotechnology, says Mr. Kuchibhotla, who has held senior management positions in Fortune 500 companies.
Of cultural identities
Asked about his motivation behind setting up the Silicon Andhra Association and University, Mr. Kuchibhotla narrates of his journey to the land of opportunities.
The native of Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh arrived in the U.S. three decades ago, chasing the American dream but remaining passionate about Indian fine arts and Telugu culture, an interest that was obvious in other families there. Thus he founded the Silicon Andhra Association (SAA) in 2001.
“The U.S. is one country that encouraged immigrants to retain their cultural identity even while blending with the mainstream. You have Chinatown in every major U.S. State. There is American Jewish University, Islamic University and Oriental Studies Centre,” he points out.
“Indian fine arts, music and dance forms are rich in content and form. But there is no world class journal promoting their study, in-depth research and a new understanding. Only an invigorating university system can encourage teaching, research and publication to enrich and enhance the ancient art forms and knowledge,” Mr. Kuchibhotla says.
SAA’s first educational initiative was ‘Mana Badi’ (‘Our School’) weekend programme in 2007, which taught the basics of the Telugu language to children born and raised in the U.S., and has since expanded to 18 States.
The UofSA became a reality after the concept struck a chord within the Indian Andhra community in California and a $ 1 million donation from philanthropist and physician Hanimireddy Lakireddy.