UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks received an honorary doctorate of literature Monday from Sri Ramaswamy Memorial University in Chennai, India.
The university invited Dirks — who specialized in South Asian history at the University of Chicago, and who has conducted research in India — to give a special commencement address. Campus spokesperson Michael Dirda said Dirks has been meeting with SRM University faculty to discuss potential partnerships between UC Berkeley and the SRM College of Engineering.
“Dirks gave a memorable acceptance speech with parts in tamil much to the pleasure of the audience,” said the SRM University convocation programme. “(H)e stated that this Honorary Degree was … very close to his heart.”
Dirks is the author of numerous books that focus on Indian culture, such as “The Hollow Crown: Ethnohistory of an Indian Kingdom,” “Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India” and “The Scandal of Empire.”
The convocation event also honored Bertil Andersson, president of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, in addition to Dirks.
In his speech, Dirks expressed his optimism about cooperating with the university to broaden student opportunities and enhance research.
For the past four years, Dirks has been trying to promote international relationships with universities overseas, according to campus Associate Chancellor Nils Gilman. These international projects range from research collaborations to dual-degree programs and exchange programs, Gilman said.
In 2016, Dirks presided over the signing of an agreement between Beijing’s Tsinghua University and the campus to form the Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute.
“There are definitely discussions happening, especially after the success of Tsinghua,” Gilman said. “We currently don’t have any programs in (South India), so it’d be interesting to explore the options there.”
Dirks left for Chennai on Friday, according to Dirda, and the trip was entirely paid for by SRM University. He was still in India on Wednesday to attend UC Berkeley alumni and donor events in Delhi and Mumbai, according to Dirda.
“I would say (an overseas trip) like this is not uncommon,” Dirda said. “This is a fairly substantial honor. I think this routinely happens, especially when it can be paired with other events that serve the university’s purpose.”