A $250,000 gift from Port Orange, Florida, residents Ramesh Chopra and Neena Chopra will bring UCF another step closer to its goal of establishing the Indian Community Endowed Chair for The India Center.

Establishing an endowed chair highlights the importance of studying India at UCF. In Fall 2022, over 3,000 students from 149 countries enrolled at UCF. Students from India represented the second-largest group of international students with 460 individuals enrolled.

The Chopra’s gift will be amplified by a $50,000 match from the university through the UCF Challenge. This strategic initiative provides matching funding from the transformational $40 million gift made in 2021 by philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. With the Chopra family’s gift, donors to date have pledged more than $2.5 million toward the $5 million goal to establish the endowed chair position.

Neena and Ramesh Chopra
Neena Chopra and Ramesh Chopra have practiced medicine in Florida for over 40 years and are active in the Indian American community in Central Florida.

“It is our hope that our gift will help The India Center create a strong foundation for ongoing research and teaching about India, a diverse and dynamic culture that is both ancient and modern,” says Ramesh Chopra.

Ramesh and Neena Chopra have both practiced medicine in Florida for over 40 years and live in Port Orange. The couple first moved to Florida in 1982 from Minneapolis, Minnesota. They are active in the Indian American community in Central Florida and helped establish CAPI, a network of Indian American medical professionals who fundraise and pool resources to support health and wellness initiatives, professional growth and leadership development. The couple has a son and daughter, who are both physicians, and four grandchildren.

“We are honored that the Chopra family has chosen to support The India Center at UCF,” says Kerstin Hamann, interim director of The India Center, an associate dean in the College of Sciences and a Pegasus Professor in the School of Politics, Security and International Affairs. “Their gift makes a significant contribution to support the work and enhance the reputation of the center as we strive to become the nation’s preeminent location for the study of contemporary India.”

The mission of The India Center at UCF is to broaden the awareness and understanding of India’s role in the world today. The center is housed in the School of Politics, Security, and International Affairs in the College of Sciences. Established in 2012, the center hosts symposia and events of interest to the regional Indian American community and to UCF students and faculty interested in India and its impact in Florida, the nation and beyond. The center has supported the work of UCF scholars and students in India and has received a variety of delegations from India.

The India Center at UCF develops India-U.S. partnerships among universities, companies, governmental, cultural, and other organizations to address issues and opportunities important to both India and the U.S. in areas ranging across technology, politics, security, medicine and more. UCF and The India Center have established partnerships with eight educational institutions in India for student and faculty collaborations and joint graduate degree programs with two colleges in India.

“We are grateful to the Chopra family for their generosity and vision in advancing our goal of creating the Indian Community Endowed Chair for The India Center at UCF,” says Michael D. Johnson, UCF provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “The endowed chair will help The India Center expand opportunities for students and faculty to better understand one of the world’s most influential countries and how it impacts us.”

Among the most ethnically diverse countries in the world, India is a land of amazing history, culture, cuisine, art and music. Estimated to surpass China as the world’s most populous country in 2023, India is a major player on the world stage of economics, security, politics and technology. People of Indian origin are one of the fastest growing migrant populations in the United States, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The Carnegie Endowment notes that between 2000 and 2018, the Indian American population grew by 150%. In Florida, Orange County is home to the state’s third largest population of immigrants from India behind Hillsborough and Broward counties in 2021, according to the Migration Policy Institute.