Asia Society's Vishakha Desai to join Columbia university

New York, Oct 6 (IANS) Leading Indian-American art historian Vishakha Desai, former president and chief executive of the Asia Society, will join Columbia University as university president Lee C. Bollinger's special advisor for global affairs.

"Vishakha Desai has had wonderful success leading the Asia Society," said Bollinger announcing the appointment of Desai, who would also be serving as a professor of practice at the university's School of International and Public Affairs, from Jan 1.

"Her insights and experience will contribute greatly to Columbia both here on our campus and around the world at our Global Centres," he said.

Born in India, Desai spent 22 years at the Asia Society, an educational organization dedicated to promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships in Asia and the United States, the last eight years as its president.

She steered the organization to significant growth in its education, art, business and public policy programmes, including the establishment of a Centre on US-China Relations and major new facilities in Houston, Hong Kong, South Korea and India, a university release said.

"I am excited about working with President Bollinger and others to develop a coordinated approach to Columbia's global ambitions," said Desai.

"I admire the University's distinctive commitment that combines intellectual, geographic, in-person and virtual connections to prepare globally competent and globally literate students. I have been privileged to work on similar projects at Asia Society and I hope to bring that experience to Columbia," she said.

A Rockefeller Foundation Fellow, a board member at the Brookings Institution and India's Auroville Foundation, she is the editor of Asian Art History in the Twenty-First Century (Yale University Press).

In addition to early work in education and public programmes at the Brooklyn Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Art, she was assistant curator of Indian, Southeast Asian and Islamic Collections at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.

Desai received her BA in political science from Bombay University and her MA and PhD in art history from the University of Michigan.

"Vishakha Desai is one of the world's most distinguished and innovative historians of Indian art and architecture," said Nicholas Dirks, vice president and dean of Columbia's faculty of arts and sciences.