A consortium of donors has committed to funding Hindi/Urdu language courses at UC Santa Cruz through spring of 2010. The combined gifts in support of the program total $75,000 and will enable the university to provide courses that would otherwise be eliminated due to budget cuts.

The gift was initiated by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Kamil and Talat Hasan, who put together a group of 15 donors who have each committed $1,000 a year for the next five years to support the language classes. Kamil Hasan noted that the Hindi/Urdu language program is the anchor for UC Santa Cruz's South Asia initiative--a project established in 1999 to create an enduring resource for understanding the region and its cultures. "History, economics, literature, music-they all depend on knowledge of these languages," he said.

The addition of second-year Hindi/Urdu courses provides the essential language preparation necessary for UC Santa Cruz students who plan to continue their education in graduate programs. Funding for the classes initially began in January, and two students have already benefited from the generosity of the donors. Maia Ramnath, a graduate student in history, and Max Bruce, a 2005 graduate in philosophy, were just awarded fellowships to study Urdu language at the American Institute of Indian Studies program in India, after completing two years of Hindi/Urdu study at UCSC.

The Hasans hosted a dinner in April at the India Community Center in Milpitas to thank the donors and give them a chance to meet UCSC's chancellor Denice D. Denton, language program chair Gildas Hamel, interim dean of humanities Gary Lease, and Hindi/Urdu lecturer John Mock.

"It was a very positive event," noted Mock, who teaches all Hindi and Urdu classes at UCSC and holds Ph.D. and M.A. degrees from UC Berkeley in South and Southeast Asian studies, specializing in South Asian languages and literature. "The donors were very happy to see that their gift is already paying off." Mock's expertise includes the languages and cultures of northern Pakistan, and he speaks Urdu, Wakhi, Hindi, and Nepali, among other languages.

"I'm so excited that this project has enabled us to bring new donors to UC Santa Cruz," added Talat Hasan. "It was so heartwarming to see the outpouring of support that within two days, we were able to get this group together. We endowed a chair in Indian music several years ago, and our feeling was that knowledge of the languages of North India-Hindi and Urdu (we often call it Hindustani)-is crucial to understand and appreciate that music."

Interim humanities dean Lease said that the campus was particularly honored and deeply appreciative of the contributions from the donors, noting that they have established "an absolutely essential foundation for further and expanded studies of the Indic subcontinent."

"This gift ensures five years of support for the instruction of Hindi/Urdu, and perhaps even more importantly, it provides us with precious breathing room to seek a more permanent ongoing funding base for South Asian studies at UC Santa Cruz," Lease added.

The consortium of donors includes: Prakash Agarwal, Anil and Sonali Batra, Anil Godhwani, Gautam Godhwani, Kamil and Talat Hasan, Sridar and Anita Iyengar, Anuradha Luther Maitra, Javed and Shaheena Khan, Arjun and Kiran Malhotra, Asha Jadeja and Rajeev Motwani, Venktesh and Abha Shukla, and Sanjay and Suniti Subhedar, Vish Mishra, Zafar Hamdani, and Raj Jaswa.