Dr. Cheryl Matherly, Vice President and Vice Provost for International Affairs; Dan Warner, Vice Provost for Admissions and Financial Aid, Lehigh University; and Dr Willy Das, Research Scientist and Curriculum Innovation Manager, Lehigh@NasdaqCenter |

Strengthening its educational ties with India, Lehigh University, a prestigious private research institution in the USA, recently hosted the Building Futures Workshop in Mumbai. 

In an exclusive interview with The Free Press Journal (FPJ), key representatives from Lehigh University—including Cheryl Matherly, Vice President and Vice Provost for International Affairs; Dan Warner, Vice Provost for Admission and Financial Aid; and Willy Das, Research Scientist and Curriculum Innovation Manager at the Lehigh@NASDAQ Center—discussed crucial topics such as financial aid opportunities, campus safety, accommodation, entrepreneurship programmes and collaborations with Indian universities.

FPJ: What attracts Indian students to the U.S.?

Matherly: Indian students are drawn to the U.S. as it is a highly sought-after destination for education. They are particularly interested in the employment opportunities available here. Lehigh University is known for academic excellence and high employability of graduates—98% of international students securing jobs or pursuing further studies within six months of graduation—which makes us a compelling choice. Additionally, our interdisciplinary programmes are particularly attractive.

FPJ: You mentioned a high employment rate of 98%. Can you explain how Lehigh determines this placement rate?

Warner: The 98% employment rate is based on our CPT (Curricular Practical Training) data, where we gather information directly from graduates. We reach out to them to confirm their employment status, salaries, graduate school admissions and enrollment. Our knowledge rate, which represents the percentage of graduates we have destination data for, stands at 93%. This ensures our employment statistics are robust and reflective of our students’ outcomes.

FPJ: What are the popular courses that attract Indian students to Lehigh University?

Warner: Overall, among all students, finance is our largest single major, but engineering, with its multiple majors, is also very popular. The College of Arts and Sciences is our largest single college, encompassing a wide range of disciplines.

Matherly: Specifically for Indian graduate students, there’s a strong preference for master’s degrees that correlate closely with the job market, especially in STEM fields and various engineering disciplines. Programmes like financial engineering and recently, MBA, particularly our intensive 12-month MBA, have seen increased interest from Indian students.

FPJ: What are the current enrollment statistics for Indian students at Lehigh University?

Matherly: Currently, we have a total of 86 on-campus students from India, including both undergraduate and graduate students. Among them, there are 16 undergraduate Indian students.

FPJ: What initiatives is Lehigh University undertaking to increase the number of Indian students?

Warner: We’ve implemented several initiatives to engage with Indian students both before and after they arrive on campus. Recognising the need for localised support, we’ve stationed a staff member in India to facilitate connections and provide local expertise. Additionally, we’ve leveraged our extensive alumni network, both in India and globally, to showcase our strong employability record and academic offerings.

Matherly: Another key initiative has been org.sing significant events like this one— Building Futures Workshop—aimed at building relationships and introducing prospective students to Lehigh. We’ve hosted counsellors and students, offering insights into higher education, entrepreneurial thinking and more. Our approach focuses on building sustainable partnerships rather than merely recruiting students. Lastly, we’re committed to enhancing our brand presence. We understand that choosing a university is a significant investment for students and their families. Through various outreach efforts, faculty engagement and showcasing student achievements, we aim to build confidence and awareness about what Lehigh has to offer.

FPJ: Are there any scholarship opportunities available for Indian students at Lehigh University?

Warner: Absolutely. At the undergraduate level, we offer both need-based financial aid and merit scholarships. Our need-based aid is tailored to families who require assistance to afford tuition, with an application process to assess their financial needs. For the past nine years, we’ve committed to meeting the demonstrated financial need of admitted students.

In addition to need-based aid, we also provide merit scholarships, which are awarded regardless of citizenship. This means Indian students, along with U.S. students, are considered equally for these awards. Over the past few years, we have significantly increased the availability of merit scholarships. Last year, between 25% and 30% of our admitted students received merit scholarships ranging from $15,000 to full tuition coverage.

The best part is that students are automatically considered for these scholarships when they apply for admission. There’s no separate application process; we evaluate scholarship eligibility based on the same criteria used for admission, including transcripts, essays and recommendations. Scholarships can cover varying amounts, from partial to full tuition, depending on the student’s qualifications.

FPJ: Can you tell us more about safety initiatives, especially in terms of ensuring the safety of Indian students?

Matherly: Bethlehem, Pennsylv.a, where Lehigh is located, is a relatively safe community with about 85,000 residents. From the moment students arrive on campus, we emphasise personal safety through responsible behaviour and common-sense practices like avoiding walking alone at night and securing personal belongings. We also educate students on staying safe in different areas, including larger cities.

The university has invested in safety infrastructure, including an app called Hawk Watch, named after our mascot, the Mountain Hawks. This app serves multiple purposes—it sends emergency messages to the campus community, such as weather alerts, and allows students to communicate directly with campus police. For instance, students can use it to inform the police if they’re walking alone at night, and police can monitor their safety until they reach their destination.

Our campus police not only handle security but also engage with the community in a supportive role. They conduct workshops, including self-defence classes, and maintain an active presence on campus with patrols on foot, bicycles and even horses. This proactive approach helps create a reassuring environment for all students, including international students.

FPJ: What other features does Hawk Watch have?

Warner: Hawk Watch also includes features like a bus tracker so students can monitor bus locations in real-time, ensuring they don’t have to wait outside unnecessarily, especially in bad weather. Moreover, students can use it to share their walking routes with friends or campus police, providing an extra layer of security.

Matherly: Beyond safety, Hawk Watch offers practical information such as campus events, dining options and other resources, making it an essential tool for every Lehigh student. Whether for full-time students or those attending short programmes, downloading Hawk Watch is one of the first steps during orientation.

FPJ: Can parents in India access Hawk Watch to monitor their children’s safety?

Das: Parents can receive emergency notifications and weather updates through Hawk Watch. However, for tracking their children’s movements, students need to opt in to allow their parents access, ensuring privacy and security are maintained unless explicitly permitted.

Matherly: The presence of over 1,000 international students at Lehigh and Bethlehem’s diversity further enhances the sense of security, where the police are seen as community partners rather than mere enforcers. This environment contributes to the overall safety and well-being of our students.

FPJ: Could you tell us more about the accommodation options available for students at Lehigh University?

Warner: For undergraduate students, we have a variety of options including residence halls, dormitories, apartments and suite-style facilities. Undergraduate students, especially international students, are required to live on campus for their first two years. This ensures they are fully immersed in the campus community and culture. Many international students choose to continue living in university residence halls throughout all four years. We offer different types of accommodations to cater to different preferences and needs.

Matherly: Graduate students also have housing options available, including some housing suitable for those with families. However, most graduate students live in apartments close to the campus area.

FPJ: Is Lehigh University looking to establish new collaborations with Indian universities?

Matherly: Absolutely, partnerships with Indian universities are integral to our international strategy. Currently, we have established relationships with six universities in India, each serving different functions and areas of cooperation. Our oldest partnership dates back to 2017 with Ashoka University, initiated through our collaboration with the NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center. Specifically, our collaboration with Ashoka University involves student exchanges and joint programmes focused on entrepreneurship and social innovations. Additionally, we have partnerships with IIT Bombay and IIT Kharagpur, primarily centred around faculty research and joint workshops, such as the recent one on entrepreneurship and teaching. We also have agreements with SRM University facilitating articulations between bachelor’s and master’s programmes, including opportunities for undergraduate research at Lehigh. Furthermore, our cooperation with OP Jindal Global University is focused on developing a joint certificate in school counselling through our College of Education. Faculty exchanges play a crucial role in these partnerships, enhancing mobility and fostering collaborative efforts between our faculties.

FPJ: Could you elaborate on the faculty exchange programme? How does it work between Lehigh and the Indian universities?

Matherly: The faculty exchange programme typically involves short-term exchanges where faculty from Lehigh University visit partner institutions in India to teach intensive courses or workshops. Similarly, faculty from Indian universities come to Lehigh to engage in teaching or conduct specialised programmes and workshops. These exchanges are pivotal in strengthening academic ties, sharing expertise, and enhancing educational experiences for both faculty and students.

Rahul Dev

Cricket Jounralist at Newsdesk

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