Forgive the sterotype — but whenever I think of Brazil, I think of fantastic soccer, the beaches of Rio de Janiero, the rhythms of Samba, and the splendor of Carnival. Of course, all of those are authentically “Brazilian”, but there are other aspects of Brazil which are quickly overtaking the cultural and tourism themes traditionally associated with this South American giant. These include the exponential growth of its business sector, large scale industrial and infrastructural development, and significant advancements in science and technology. I discovered this “side” of Brazil in early October when the U.S. Embassy to Brazil partnered with the Fulbright Commission in Brazil to sponsor a program on “Higher Education Missions to the U.S.”. The program, which was implemented by Meridian International Center, brought three regional delegations comprising eighteen Brazilian deans and academic professionals to the United States. Each of the regional delegations, visited several institutions of higher learning in the U.S. which could potentially provide innovative exchanges to the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program.
The Brazil Scientific Mobility Undergraduate Program, launched by the Brazilian government in 2011 at the Science Without Borders, brings some 4,000 Brazilian undergraduate students to study in the U.S. each year. The scholarship program funds one year of study abroad and six months of intensive English study. Its ultimate goal is to send some 100,000 Brazilian undergraduate and graduate students abroad, particularly to pursue studies in the STEM fields “to enhance the country’s competitiveness” in this area.
The three delegations arrived in the U.S. on October 6 for a 14 day-long program and simultaneously visited universities on the West Coast, the Midwest and New England. Two of the groups (West Coast and Midwest) visited a total of fifteen different universities including University of California at Davis and Berkley, Arizona State University, Rice University, University of Minnesota, University of Notre Dame, University of Missouri – Kansas City, and University of Wisconsin-Madison. These groups discussed connections and agreements between U.S. and Brazilian universities related to credit transfers. Many of the current students do not have their credits recognized by Brazilian universities upon the completion of their year-long program in the U.S; and so, the Deans of Undergraduate Studies from these two groups embraced this opportunity to discuss this issue with their American counterparts, and develop a better understand for the U.S. educational system.
The third group visited nine universities in New England and the East Coast including Yale, Columbia, Brown and Stony Brook University with a view to exploring the possibility of establishing Professional Master’s degrees for Brazilian students. The U.S. is currently the only country in the world offering this type of M.A. and Brazil intends to replicate the experience. The participants in this program learnt more about the process for developing professional degrees, as well as its importance and applicability to development in Brazil.
For the last part of their U.S. visit, the three groups reconvened in Washington, DC to compare experiences. The delegations were hosted by the Brazilian Embassy for a round table discussion with officials from the Institute of International Education; the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities; the Latin American Scholarship Program of American Universities; Morgan State University; and from Northern Virginia Community College’s Brazil Community College STEM Program. The groups also met with Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Ms. Roberta S. Jacobson and other officials from the Department of State to discuss U.S. foreign policy towards Brazil in the educational arena. The program concluded with a reception at the Embassy of Brazil hosted by H.E. Ambassador Mauro Vieira.
While this exchange was a dynamic learning experience for the participants, it was an opportunity for me to grasp more fully that Brazil is indeed a giant in the midst of a development boom. I can’t wait to see what this wonderful country will lool like in the next 5 years!